NTIA Corrects Broadband Mapping Funds

Changes related to details about availability, speed, and infrastructure
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The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has made some technical corrections to its notice of funds availability (NOFA) for broadband mapping that paves the way for broadband providers to give up the data.

Major broadband providers and trade associations had asked NTIA for the changes, and with them "committed to helping NTIA complete the important and difficult task of mapping broadband availability."

The changes related to the level of detail required on availability, speed and infrastructure and the degree of public disclosure.

In a technical correction to the NOFA, NTIA agreed to get less granular on the data, requiring census-block rather than address-specific data, and no longer requiring broadband providers to report average revenue per end user or last-mile connection points.

Winning bidders for the state broadband mapping effort, which must essentially be a cooperative effort among those bidders, the broadband providers who must give up the info, and the government, will also be required to sign confidentiality agreements if the providers request them.

NTIA also said if it shared the info with "the FCC or other federal agencies," which could likely include the Department of Agriculture, it would require them to treat it as confidential as well.

The heads of the major trade associations, including the American Cable Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, wrote a letter to NTIA head Larry Strickling dated Aug. 6 outlining the changes that "would help to cement an effective public-private partnership between NTIA, state awardees, and broadband providers that would speed cooperation and progress in compiling and reporting the requested data in a timely fashion."

But there had already been industry meetings with Strickling over the issues earlier in the week.

"ACA is committed to helping the NTIA with mapping the nation's broadband availability, and it believes the agency's modifications will improve and expedite that effort," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said in response to the NTIA modifications.

As part of the broadband deployment portion of the economic stimulus package, up to $350 million has been set aside for the mapping effort so the government can get a better handle on where to focus its efforts. Congress had already mandated data collection as part of a separate bill.

"In July we announced the requirements of our broadband mapping program. Since then, NTIA has listened to feedback from the states, public interest groups, and industry regarding the scope and detail of our mapping requirements," Strickling said in a statement. "As I have said in the past, we are committed to collecting the data necessary to build a robust map for the benefit of consumers and policymakers alike. So I am extremely gratified that the major broadband providers and trade associations have now given their firm commitment to provide the data we require.

"In addition to securing this commitment, we are clarifying several technical requirements that will improve the accuracy of the national broadband map and also enhance transparency when it comes to identifying the service areas of individual broadband providers."

Broadband providers had argued that getting the address-level and average revenue data would be tough, and in the case of revenue not germane to the exercise and in the case of addresses likely not to be accurate.

"We support NTIA's goal of effectively mapping the nation's broadband availability," said NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow, "and these specific clarifications will enable providers, state awardees and government to work more quickly and effectively in accomplishing this important task." 

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