State officials are urging West Virginians to help ensure broadband access across the Mountain State by confirming or challenging the Federal Communications Commission's map of state broadband infrastructure, which appears to include mistakes.
The West Virginia Office of Broadband and the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council are asking West Virginians to review their location and broadband availability data on the new map that will help ensure better broadband coverage.
According to the agencies, the new national broadband map is a pre-production draft that identifies broadband availability by address.
The new map is the first iteration designed under the Federal Communication Commission's new broadband data collection program. The map displays Internet services across the U.S., as reported by Internet Service Providers. State and local governments and consumers have until January 13, 2023, to submit challenges.
The map will calculate the amount of funds allocated to the state by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration through its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, which will provide funding for broadband deployment nationwide under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The greatest share of funding, $42.5 billion, will be allocated nationwide under the program. Each state will receive a minimum of $100 million, and final allocations will be based on several factors, including an analysis of unserved locations shown on the map.
Unserved locations are those without reliable service of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
Governor Jim Justice said participation in the mapping is vital for West Virginians.
“It is vital that all West Virginia addresses are included in the FCC mapping data, especially when funding allocations will be based on the number of unserved locations in our state,” Justice said.
“Every West Virginian and every West Virginia address should be counted, especially those that lack real broadband service.
"I have directed the West Virginia Office of Broadband to challenge the FCC data whenever and wherever possible to ensure that all West Virginians gain access to crucial infrastructure.”
The West Virginia Department of Economic Development, Office of Broadband, has already submitted more than 138,000 missing addresses to the FCC, as part of the State’s official challenge to the FCC Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, in November 2022.
The fabric provides the foundation for the new broadband availability map. Missing locations can still be added. Additionally, multi-family addresses with incorrect unit counts can be corrected.
There are several distinctions between the FCC map and the state broadband map. The West Virginia Office of Broadband has utilized the Statewide Addressing and Mapping System and parcel data to create West Virginia’s address-level broadband map, which includes 1,094,392 unique address locations in West Virginia. The FCC map initially included 902,699 address locations.
In addition, the state Office of Broadband does not include satellite service in its served category. However, the FCC map shows satellite areas as served. The office will continue working to reconcile discrepancies between the two maps.
Mitch Carmichael, state secretary of economic development, said West Virginians need to step up and be accounted for.
“Participation in the challenge process will help ensure that all West Virginians are accurately represented on the FCC map,” Carmichael said.
“All West Virginians should review their location on this new FCC map and submit a Location Challenge if their location is missing. Concerns about internet service are also extremely important and should be included in an Availability Challenge.”
West Virginians are encouraged to submit a Location Challenge to indicate that an address is missing or an availability challenge to indicate that availability is incorrect.
How to Find Your FCC Address
Visit https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. Using the search bar, type in the address you wish to review. The map should automatically zoom to your location. After finding your location, a side panel on the right-hand side of the screen will populate location and service information. If your location is missing, select your location's building footprint or space to submit a Location Challenge.
How to Submit a Location Challenge
After searching a location, select the building footprint or space to where the point location layer is missing. Once the location is found, select “Challenge Location.” You will be required to fill out a form regarding information about your location. After a challenge is submitted, you will receive a confirmation email informing you that the FCC has received it.
If a location is available on the map that includes inaccurate information, navigate to “Location Challenge” in the side panel to complete the form.
How to Submit an Availability Challenge
After searching a location, select “Availability Challenge” in the side panel. Select the provider (ISP) you wish to challenge. Complete the form to dispute the provider's claim on service availability. The map will be updated through a combination of FCC verification efforts, new data from Internet providers, new location data, and—importantly—information from the public and state broadband offices.
Under the BDC process, the FCC will collect data and release new maps twice per year. The WV Office of Broadband anticipates that several cycles will be needed to refine the data. To learn more about West Virginia’s ongoing broadband development initiative, visit broadband.wv.gov. Challenges must be submitted by January 13, 2023.