Broadband Program Urged to Extend ‘Aggressive’ Deadline for Map

  • States have until Friday for best shot at internet map input
  • Map will be used to award grants from infrastructure law

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Senators are calling on the Biden administration to give states more time to weigh in on a map that will inform how much money they receive to connect Americans to the internet.

Congress is keeping a close eye on two agencies tasked with deploying $42.5 billion for broadband from last year’s infrastructure law. Past attempts to expand internet access—which lawmakers say will improve equity and economic opportunity—have faltered because of inaccurate data on who is and isn’t connected in the US. A looming de facto deadline is threatening to bungle the effort again.

The Federal Communications Commission in November released a draft of the broadband map and invited state and local governments, tribes, and individuals to challenge its accuracy. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will use the map to allocate Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment grants by June 30.

NTIA said the best chance for challenges to appear in the map that will be used to allocate funds will end Jan. 13 — though that isn’t a hard deadline and the FCC will continue accepting input.

“Unfortunately, the timeline allowed by NTIA to submit challenges and improve the accuracy of the maps has proven too aggressive for many Kansas broadband providers, community leaders and residents,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said in a Tuesday letter to NTIA head Alan Davidson obtained by Bloomberg Government. He asked for a 90-day extension.

Earlier: US Broadband Maps to Pave Way for Infrastructure Law Grants

Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A person uses a laptop while working from home in Tiskilwa, Ill., on Sept. 8, 2020.

“Our highest priority through this entire process should be the accuracy of the maps to ensure federal dollars are being properly allocated to the states most in need of additional resources,” Marshall added.

Nevada Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto are asking the agencies to extend the deadline by 60 days. The offices of Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg Government they also support an extension.

Other senators, such as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), are sticking to the plan. West Virginia “has a robust plan for the challenge process, and is working diligently to meet the deadline,” her office said in an email.

But some government entities and outreach organizations said they’re scrambling to meet the deadline and are overwhelmed by the amount of data that needs to be collected and packaged according to FCC instructions.

“The state offices contributing to the challenges are realizing the date is coming up very quickly. It’s a cumbersome process and a heavy lift from the state perspective,” said Brian Allenby, Maine Connectivity Authority communications director.

At a press conference last month, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said the infrastructure law requires the agency to move any challenges to internet availability reflected in the map under a certain schedule. Jan. 13 “is not a date that is in our roles,” she said. “What we are trying to do is resolve as many challenges as possible before the production of the next map.”

‘Not Super Intuitive’

States have the option of submitting bulk challenges. Those require geospatial data analysts that are in short supply in some areas. Individuals also have the option to submit challenges.

“At the individual level — if a person wants to understand the map interface, it’s not super intuitive even for mapping experts,” said Christine Parker, a specialist on geographic information systems and data visualization at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Parker’s organization is helping state broadband offices and others understand the process.

Groups said a two- or three-month extension would only be putting a Band-Aid on the problem. Instead, they’re hoping NTIA will dole out the guaranteed initial money to all the states, and allocate the rest after a more accurate map is done.

Related: Native Americans Long ‘Left Out’ From Broadband Push for Equity

Under the grant program, each state gets a minimum of $100 million. After that, allocations depend on the number of unserved locations in each state compared to the rest of the country. NTIA must approve an initial proposal from states for them to unlock 20% of their total allocation, then a final plan to unlock the rest, according to the infrastructure law and the agency’s notice of funding opportunity.

“60 days is not the golden solution. We’re hoping for a pause on the high-stakes allocation,” Connect New Mexico Council Chair Kimball Sekaquaptewa said. “Whatever extension is granted needs to be meaningful. We need the best data.”

Maine, meanwhile, is asking for a year. “A month or two will help a little but if you really want accurate data, we should be basing it on a map from a year from now and start with $100 million,” Allenby said, noting he understands it would require changes to the rulemaking.

In Minnesota, Office of Broadband Development Director Bree Maki said the state hasn’t taken an official position but would welcome the initial $100 million and spend it wisely. As it stands now, pushing back the Jan. 13 deadline would mean a delay in getting any money, which is a “double edged sword,” Maki said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Curi in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at; Anna Yukhananov at

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