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Challenge process unfolds as officials talk broadband maps

Photo from the FCC’s National Broadband Map A look at Pittsfield and the residences that do - and do not - have access to high-speed wired or fixed-wireless internet access. Challenges to the map can be made through Jan. 13. Funding determinations at the state and national level will be made based on these maps.

Funding for the future of broadband deployment is tied to the National Broadband Map being as accurate as possible.

And the window to challenge the maps is open through Jan. 13.

So the state’s broadband authority held the first in a series of two webinars Monday aimed at educating people how to challenge the maps. The second webinar is today at 1 p.m. Information on how to participate can be found by searching “FCC National Broadband Map & Challenge Process Webinar 2.”

Harry Crissy, Warren County’s Penn State Extension educator, called these maps “by far better than anything we’ve had in the past.”

“We are currently in an unprecedented time,” Kalie Snyder, the authority’s economic consultant explained, “looking at receiving a large number of federal dollars that will help us expand our broadband efforts across the Commonwealth.”

She stressed that the maps will be used to make funding decisions and that the state is set to receive at least $100 million.

So a key focus of the webinar was to equip people to lodge challenges.

The map provides granular data down to individual addresses; but when one first opens it, you’ll see blue hexagons that give the impression of 100 percent coverage.

Crissy said those hexagons are “useful but can be confusing” but “shows places that are served that are not.”

Many different service types can be filtered and Crissy narrowed the search by wired and fixed wireless, the technologies that are the focus of this funding effort.

Crissy stressed the importance of the individual challenges.

“This is competitive so we really want to score big here,” he said.

The Jan. 13 deadline is “when the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will consider and be equipped to adjust funding disbursement. (We are) trying to make sure we get as many challenges as we can.”

Crissy said “more corrections will be made as we go. Every six months this is going to be corrected…. The more that we can verify need, the more allocations we are going to get.”

Snyder said the current map identities areas that are “capable of receiving broadband service.”

“This is so important,” she added. “An opportunity for all individuals… to directly go into the map and challenge the information that is being shown.” The challenges, she said, will go directly to the FCC.

“We have so many great projects planned and in process,” Nicole Ugarte with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said. “(There are) so many rural areas that would benefit from this needed deployment.”

Certain technologies have been defined as reliable. Ugarte said areas served by satellite service “will be considered unserved.

“We understand the maps are a snapshot in time,” she added. “(They) might not accurately reflect what is going on in your communities.”

The maps can be found at broadbandmap.fcc.gov.

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