The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week unveiled the third iteration of its national broadband map, reflecting coverage data submitted by ISPs as of June 30, 2023.
The first draft of the map came out last November, and the Commission releases an updated version every six months. The NTIA used the last version of the map – published in May – to determine state allocations for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted in a blog post the number of unserved homes and businesses has gone down, from 8.3 million locations to just over 7.2 million. Total broadband serviceable locations now stand at 115 million, increasing by 800,000 since May.
“Looking ahead, we expect that any changes in the number of locations will overwhelmingly reflect on-the-ground changes such as the construction of new housing,” Rosenworcel wrote.
Not only does the FCC’s map provide an in-depth look at broadband serviceable locations, but the public can also use it to file location or availability challenges. According to Rosenworcel, the FCC has processed 4.8 million challenges to provider-reported availability and over 1.5 million location challenges.
“Since our last release, we’ve initiated mobile coverage audits in a number of states,” she said. “We’ve also seen hundreds of corrections to provider reported data based on FCC-initiated verification efforts.”
Mike Wendy, spokesperson for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), noted the drop in unserved locations is “significant” and the organization “welcome[s] these new numbers.”
“Though government policy may play some role here, that can only be part of the story. Many government-funded projects remain years away from deployment,” he told Fierce. “In the meantime, our members, who primarily use private funding to grow, have been busy since even before the pandemic, connecting new customers at a torrid pace.”
The updated FCC map comes as the agency pursues other efforts to bridge the digital divide. This month, the FCC approved final rules that aim to “prevent” and “eliminate” digital discrimination.
The Commission is also considering increasing the national fixed broadband speed benchmark from 25/3 Mbps to 100/20 Mbps.