Draft national broadband map to be released Nov. 18, FCC says: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, October 26, 2022 – The State of Montana could be in breach of its contractual obligations to a private partner if it fully participates in the Federal Communications Commission’s fabric challenge process, Adam Charpentierdata manager for the Montana Department of Administration, said Wednesday.

Carpenter, speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online panel, explained that some of the data Montana needs to meet national broadband fabric challenges is leased to a private partner. Contractual obligations between the state and the partners limit Montana’s ability to share this data with other commercial enterprises, Carpenter said.

However, CostQuest Associates, the FCC vendor that created and owns the initial version of the fabric, may lease FCC-owned data submitted in the dispute process for use in its own commercial products, which means that some data private partners of the States could find themselves in the products of a competitor.

“If… you lease that data to a private entity, you can’t just hand it over to another private entity,” Carpenter said. “And that puts us in a position where we’re not going to challenge the FCC card, we’re going to breach our contract and we’ll be sued, or we’re going to make a deal where we partially challenge the FCC card where it favors us.

Screenshot of Adam Carpenter, Data Manager for the Montana Department of Administration

According to Carpenter, since many other states have leased map data to private partners like Montana has, this legal tension will likely limit the state’s ability to bring fabric challenges and therefore lead to National map data below average.

Fabric type data is the “heart [intellectual property]for state mapping partners, Carpenter told Broadband Breakfast after the panel.

The Fabric is a dataset of all “broadband served locations” in America, and it will be the basis upon which broadband coverage data will be established to create the FCC’s National Broadband Map. Based on this map, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate $42.5 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program among states for broadband deployment and other related projects.

The FCC did not respond to Broadband Breakfast’s request for comment.

Panel Criticizes NTIA’s Intention to Spend Big on CostQuest

The panel criticized NTIA’s stated intention to obtain the fabric and related products for an estimated $49.9 million, which would be in addition to the original CostQuest-FCC contract to create the fabric, labeled at $44.9 million.

“I still have no idea what NTIA is buying for $50 million,” said Sascha Meinrathholder of the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University and director of the X-Lab.

“There’s no justification for the $50 million problem,” Carpenter said. “This is clearly a price that is not derived from the value of the product being sold…this is what is generally referred to as scamming.”

The NTIA did not respond to Broadband Breakfast’s request for comment.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 12 p.m. ET – Challenge the Broadband Fabric

Discontent is mounting over the Federal Communications Commission’s use of so-called “broadband fabric” to measure broadband availability on an address-by-address basis. Many fear that the FCC is dismissing or downplaying consumers’ ability to complete speed test challenges for fabric data. Additionally, the private nature of the fabric is a concern for those who say publicly available information is necessary to develop broadband. What are the alternatives to fabric, and how could fabric be challenged with the FCC, NTIA, state broadband offices, or in court?

Speakers:

  • Sascha MeinrathDirector, X-Lab and Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Penn State University
  • Michel KleemanProfessor, George Mason University
  • Scott D. WoodsVice President for Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, Ready.net
  • Adam CharpentierData Manager, Montana Department of Administration
  • Drew Clark (moderator), editor and publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist Resources:

  • NTIA plans to award $50 million contract to CostQuest, but considers competitive sourcing, Broadband Breakfast, October 24, 2022
  • Communities must be specific in Fabric-Challenge submissions, says Mapping Nonprofit, Broadband Breakfast, October 21, 2022
  • After Controversial Mapping Panel, FCC Confirms No Fees for Fabric Access, Broadband Breakfast, October 13, 2022
  • FCC’s Fabric Challenge process is an important part of getting a good card, says agency, Broadband Breakfast, September 8, 2022
  • Montana Mapping Official: Treasury Deadline for ARPA Fund Disbursement Likely Too Soon, Broadband Breakfast, April 13, 2022

Sascha Meinrath is the Palmer Professor of Telecommunications at Penn State University and director of X-Lab, an innovative think tank focused on the intersection of cutting-edge technologies and public policy. Prior to founding the X-Lab, Meinrath was vice president of the New America Foundation, where he founded the Open Technology Institute in 2008 and embedded it into one of the largest public interest technology policy organizations. in Washington, D.C. He also founded the Commotion Wireless Project, which works around the world to empower communities by providing tools to build their own local communications infrastructure, and co-founded Measurement Lab, a global online platform enabling researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools that give the public and key decision makers useful information about broadband connectivity.

Michel Kleeman is a serial CTO and has worked in networks on five continents and deployed fiber optic, long-haul, local, midstream, and even submarine systems, since the mid-1980s. Kleeman has a deep understanding of the economics of networks, both in capital and in operation, in a wide range of local, long distance and international geographies using current and emerging technologies for network transmission and deployment. He is a professor of practice at George Mason University.

Scott D. Woods is the Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for Ready.net, where he facilitates and develops key public-private partnerships formed through the Broadband.Money platform. It also focuses on providing a platform for local communities to voice their needs for broadband access and digital capital investments, as well as developing industry partnerships and promoting alliances with key stakeholders to advance and support community broadband education and advocacy initiatives.

With a background in software engineering and data analysis, Adam Charpentier discovered machine learning (AI) when it was in its infancy and found his passion. Impressed by the transformative power of AI early on, it quickly became apparent that this was the final step in a long data maturity journey. Adam has since spent a career helping organizations along this journey so they can better use their data to serve their customers. After getting the call to public service, Adam is now facilitating that trip for the state of Montana through that same trip.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC, editor and publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com, and a nationally respected telecommunications attorney. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he led the State Broadband Initiative in Illinois. Now, in light of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, Attorney Clark is helping fiber and wireless clients secure financing, identify markets, negotiate the infrastructure and to operate within the public right-of-way.

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