Senator Reverend Warnock championed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which made robust federal investments available for Georgia’s broadband expansion efforts
To distribute the $42.45 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program federal dollars allocated in the BIL, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assembled a broadband map to track where broadband is and isn’t available
Senator Reverend Warnock and Georgia broadband officials have serious concerns about the accuracy of the map. Currently, up to 220,000 locations that lack broadband may be missing from the FCC map—which could result in Georgia not receiving its fair share of broadband dollars
At the close of the 117th Congress, Senator Reverend Warnock led every member of the Georgia delegation in pushing the FCC to allow more time for corrections and complaints concerning the broadband map
The FCC is currently processing complaints and challenges to its broadband map; however the FCC is not on track to process all of the challenges before the funding is set to begin distribution in June
Senator Reverend Warnock: “…I am deeply concerned about the flaws in the FCC’s broadband availability map released at the end of last year. This is about more than accurate mapping, this is about making sure that Washington is doing its part to help Georgians thrive.”
Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) led a delegation of bipartisan senators to push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to speed up its review process of challenges to the broadband availability map and publish monthly map updates leading up to funding distribution in June. The broadband availability map, which may leave out up to 220,000 locations that lack broadband in Georgia, helps inform how federal broadband expansion dollars are distributed. Inaccurate mapping could lead to Georgia not receiving the federal broadband dollars the state deserves. The Senator led the entire Georgia delegation pushing the FCC for more time for the state to file corrections and complaints. Now, Senator Warnock is joining Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cynthia Lummus (R-WY) in this bipartisan efforts to push FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to ensure taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible and to ensure Georgia receives every dollar it’s due.
“The future of America depends on access to high-speed internet,” wrote the Senators to FCC Chair Rosenworcel. “Working from incomplete and inaccurate data could tilt the distribution of federal resources away from rural states, undermining the efficacy of the BEAD program and shortchanging millions of Americans of critical investments in broadband. We implore the FCC to take action to ensure that rural communities have the tools they need to close the digital divide and build a brighter future for all Americans.”
“I championed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law because I knew robust investments to expand Georgia’s broadband network would set up our state to thrive for generations to come,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “So, I am deeply concerned about the flaws in the FCC’s broadband availability map released at the end of last year. This is about more than accurate mapping, this is about making sure that Washington is doing its part to help Georgians thrive. I’m going to continue to push the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), including Secretary Raimondo directly, to allow Georgians to challenge the map and have their challenges processed in a timely manner.”
Senator Warnock is a champion for bringing robust federal investments in broadband access to Georgians across the state. At the beginning of December, Senator Warnock announced $250 million in American Rescue Plan funding will be invested in expanding and improving Georgians’ broadband access. He has secured more than $570 million in federal funding to bolster Georgia’s broadband infrastructure. Last year, Senator Warnock hosted FCC Chair Rosenworcel in Jackson County where he took her to meet directly with parents, students, and local officials about their broadband needs and the challenges they face. He also received a commitment from Rosenworcel to connect every Georgian to affordable and reliable broadband. In addition, Senator Warnock is working to bring more affordable broadband to more Georgians through the Affordable Connectivity Program, which was created through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
A copy of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel:
As the administration prepares to distribute tens of billions of dollars for broadband, it is critical that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) use accurate, up-to-date data to ensure taxpayer funds are used efficiently to bridge the digital divide. To that end, we urge the FCC to accelerate the timeline of challenges to the new National Broadband Map – which will be used to allocate Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants – and publish updates to the Location Fabric every month, rather than every six months. The current six month cadence risks squandering a significant investment to ensure more Americans can access reliable, high-speed broadband and the innovations in employment, education, and health care that depend on it.
When the FCC released the first version of the new National Broadband Map on November 18, 2022, you referred to it as a “pre-production draft,” aptly noting not only that the Map contained flaws, but also that addressing them would require full involvement from consumers and other stakeholders through a robust public challenge process. Indeed, upon the public release of the Map, we heard from a variety of stakeholders, including rural communities, Tribes, state and local governments, and small internet service providers, with continuing concerns about inaccuracies. Issues range from overstated claims of service availability to missing or incorrect locations of residents and businesses. While stakeholders were encouraged to file challenges by January 13, 2023, to have them included in the version of the Map that will be used to allocate BEAD funds, we understand that the FCC has informed states that, because of its six-month cadence for updates to the Location Fabric, location challenges should have been filed by November 2022 – before the public even had access to the Map. Neither of these deadlines provided sufficient time for all stakeholders to review the Map, identify issues, and submit robust challenges. As a result, we are concerned that the Map could remain significantly flawed, and states across the country may have lost the ability to file meaningful mapping challenges and gain access to vital federal funding needed to close this country’s digital divide.
To be clear, the creation of the National Broadband Map and the administration of its challenge process are significant tasks, and we appreciate the diligent work of you and your staff to stand up these processes and to make them accessible to our constituents. That said, we are concerned that the timeline thus far has been too short and opaque to allow for meaningful participation by the rural and remote communities that need broadband funding the most. Fortunately, the FCC has the authority to act decisively to allow more states and communities to submit location and availability challenges and allow them to be incorporated into the version of the Map that will be used to allocate BEAD funds in June of this year. The FCC can do this by increasing the cadence for updates to the Location Fabric and publishing monthly updates of the Map reflecting such fabric updates at least until the BEAD allocation is set. We understand that data is to be collected from providers biannually, and we emphasize that both the authorizing statute (47 U.S.C. §642(c)(3)) and the FCC’s regulations (47 C.F.R. §1.7008(c)) allow flexibility for the FCC to update the Fabric “not less frequently than biannually” and “at least biannually,” respectively. Congress provided this flexibility for a reason, and the FCC should take advantage of it. While there is value in providing more timely transparency into added location data in and of itself, the FCC should also link the added location data to provider availability data to the extent possible. Doing so will allow for more serviceable locations to be counted, and more availability challenges to be submitted and resolved, thereby ensuring the National Broadband Map is able to accurately and efficiently target taxpayer resources to the communities that need them most.
The future of America depends on access to high-speed internet. Working from incomplete and inaccurate data will tilt the distribution of federal resources away from rural states, undermining the efficacy of the BEAD program and shortchanging millions of Americans of critical investments in broadband. We implore the FCC to take action to ensure that rural communities have the tools they need to close the digital divide and build a brighter future for all Americans.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We stand ready to assist as needed.