On January 19, 2024, the Broadband Data Task Force, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Wireline Competition Bureau, and Office of Economics and Analytics (collectively “the FCC”) released a Public Notice seeking comment on the Broadband Data Collection (“BDC”) challenge processes, which will inform a forthcoming report to Congress. You may recall that section 802(b)(5)(D) of the Communications Act requires the FCC to submit a report to Congress that evaluates the challenge processes and considers whether the FCC should commence an inquiry into the need for other tools to help identify potential inaccuracies in BDC data and improve the accuracy of the data. In order to inform this report, the FCC seeks input on the extent to which stakeholders are participating in the challenge processes, whether the challenge processes are “user-friendly,” and if not what improvements the FCC can make to make the challenge processes more user-friendly, and the effectiveness of the challenge processes in improving the quality and accuracy of the broadband availability data.
Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on the following:
- The Fixed Availability Challenge Process: The FCC notes that from November 2022 to November 2023, the FCC received 3.7 million fixed availability challenges, the vast majority of which were submitted through the bulk challenge process. More than 2.2 million of those challenges were conceded by providers, another 590,000 were overturned by the FCC, and 276,000 were upheld by the FCC. The FCC seeks comment on participation in the fixed broadband availability challenge process, including whether 60 days is a sufficient time to respond both to the initial challenge and in the second stage of the challenge process, whether the data in the National Broadband Map clearly identifies the broadband serviceable locations and which broadband providers offer service, whether to allow non-individuals to submit challenges via the map interface, and whether the process appropriately balances time, expense, and burden to participants, among other things.
- The Mobile Availability Challenge Process: The FCC notes that from November 2022 to August 2023, 190,000 mobile on-the-ground speed test results were submitted to the Commission via the FCC Speed Test app, which resulted in 35 cognizable challenges and 18 corrections. The FCC seeks comment on participation in the mobile broadband availability challenge process, including whether there are problems with the FCC Speed Test app, whether the thresholds for mobile challenges in the Technical Requirements Order are adequately formulated or should be adjusted, whether the data clearly reflects where mobile service is available, and whether it balances the time, expense, and burden to participants, among other things.
- The Fabric Challenge Process: The FCC notes that from September 2022 to October 2023, the FCC received approximately 9.23 million Fabric challenges, 7.66 million of which were to add new locations to the Fabric. The FCC upheld over 497,000 of the new location challenges. The FCC seeks comment on the Fabric Challenge Process, including whether the data clearly identifies the broadband serviceable locations and the types of data that can be challenged, among other things.
- The Need for Other Tools: The FCC seeks comment on additional tools that might be necessary to identify potential inaccuracies in the availability data, including whether the process allows challengers to submit appropriate types of evidence, whether speed test data could indicate a lack of availability of fixed broadband service, whether the FCC should accept challenges to the maximum latency of fixed availability services, and other tools to identify mobile broadband availability, among other things.
Comments are due on or before February 19, 2024.
Reply comments are due on or before March 5, 2024.
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