NRECA is calling on all electric cooperatives to immediately review new federal broadband coverage maps, which will determine state allocations from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program to areas without high-speed internet.
The urgency stems from a National Telecommunications and Information Administration request that map challenges be submitted by Jan. 13 to provide the Federal Communications Commission sufficient time to incorporate corrections before NTIA releases BEAD funds in June 2023.
“The FCC recently updated these national broadband maps, but numerous errors persist,” said Brian O’Hara, NRECA senior regulatory director for telecom and broadband. “Accurate broadband availability maps are crucially important to where these federal dollars will go.”
NRECA is partnering with NRTC on a bulk “knowledge of infrastructure" availability challenge on behalf of co-ops. A webinar on the challenge for all co-ops, including those not involved in broadband, explains the process, including these key dates ahead of the NTIA’s recommended Jan. 13 deadline:
By Dec. 15, inform NRECA and NRTC if you plan to join the bulk challenge by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dec. 15, contact NRECA’s O’Hara at Brian.OHara@nreca.coop if you plan to work with your own contractor to submit your own bulk challenge and/or if you plan to share the individual challenge link with your membership.
By Dec. 23, submit data files to NRTC on broadband coverage areas by emailing email@example.com. This is a firm deadline.
NRECA’s new National Broadband Map Action Center contains extensive details and resources on challenging the FCC broadband maps, which were based on data from incumbent internet service providers.
The action center also will include information on how co-ops can partner with Voices for Cooperative Power to educate their consumer-members on individual location challenges.
“NRECA welcomes feedback on the maps and hearing from cooperatives who may want assistance in submitting challenges to the FCC,” said Katie Culleton, NRECA legislative affairs director.
“By participating in the challenge process, American families and businesses can help ensure the maps are accurate and make sure this funding goes to connect rural communities.”