The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will release an updated Broadband Funding Map in June to improve existing inaccuracies, according to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson.
Davidson told lawmakers on May 23 that the new version of the FCC map will inform the NTIA’s allocations to states participating in its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program – a $42.45 billion fund to expand high-speed internet access in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
The FCC released its Broadband Funding Map earlier this month, which shows broadband availability across the country and where the Federal government is providing financial support for broadband infrastructure development projects. However, the map had significant inaccuracies.
“The maps in the past that have been used have been poor,” Davidson told lawmakers at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Tuesday. “We think that the map that the FCC is working on now is substantially improved, much more accurate, much more granular map than we’ve ever had before.”
Davidson noted that the NTIA and the FCC have been in the middle of a “long challenge process” in which states could present challenges to the map and ask for updates. While the NTIA has been working closely with the FCC to ensure those challenges are adjudicated, Davidson also stressed the importance of speed in this process.
“It’s important that we move wisely in how we spend our funds but also with a sense of urgency because we know that every week we wait is another week that people are not getting connected,” the NTIA administrator said. “So, we think that the FCC’s map that will come out this June will be a map that we’ll be able to use for our allocations.”
“Our hope is that the FCC map will be the main source of truth,” he added. “And we do want to give states the flexibility to add their own data on top of it and make sure that they’re also making that map better.”
Davidson said the NTIA is also ensuring states “do a lot of homework before we give them their final grants” for the BEAD program.
For instance, he said states need to present an initial plan to the NTIA that describes how they expect to spend their money. After making their grant awards, states will then need to present the NTIA with a final plan.
“We feel it’s very important that we’re not just writing hundreds of millions of dollars of checks, billions of dollars in some cases, to states without a plan,” Davidson said. “So, we’re going to be looking at those plans – it’s a pretty detailed plan that we’re expecting that shows how they meet the requirements of the statute – and that’s going to be our main way to make sure that states are spending the money wisely and consistently with Congress’s direction.”