State broadband expert urges residents to review newly released online broadband maps and report any inaccuracies in crowdsourcing initiative that could help direct millions of dollars federal funding to Hawaii.
On Nov. 18, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it had released maps detailing where broadband service is adequate in Hawaii and where it is substandard or unavailable, down to individual addresses. The maps detail who offers the service at given locations, as well as available upload and download speeds.
These maps will help the federal government decide where service is substandard and where it should direct several million federal dollars under the National Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.
But service providers, including Hawaiian Telcom and Charter Communications, have already identified missing data and other issues with the cards, and it’s likely there are other errors or flaws that haven’t been spotted yet. . Charter does business in Hawaii as Spectrum, and Hawaiian Telcom is identified on maps as its parent company, Cincinnati Bell Inc.
Burt Lum, head of broadband strategy for the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, said the state is certain to secure at least $100 million in formula funding to improve and expand local broadband service under the BEAD program, but Hawaii could be able to receive up to $250 million if it can demonstrate that more money is needed.
“This map is going to determine how much money Hawaii gets,” he said, and they will also identify specific areas in the state where that money should be applied to install fiber to improve local infrastructure in broadband.
The final amount Hawaii will receive will be based on a formula used by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees the BEAD grant program. The state will submit a plan next year detailing how it proposes to use the federal money.
Priority sites for funding will be unserved or underserved areas. The NTIA defines “unserved” as any location that has no service or has poor service with speeds below 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. Locations that have 100 Mbps download service and 20 Mbps upload or less are considered “underserved”.
Find Hawaii maps here.
Broadband providers such as Hawaiian Telcom and Charter have traditionally considered proprietary information to include detailed data on the exact service levels available in particular neighborhoods. But the new public maps will help document exactly which areas need government support to improve service and help strengthen the case for such public assistance.
Map accuracy is essential because if the maps show that an area already has a high level of service, it is unlikely that area will benefit from additional support from the BEAD programme.
Lum told members of an informal Hawaiian group known as Broadband Hui on Wednesday that “we want to try to get an idea of everybody in the community, how accurate is this map and how can we provide comments?”
“It’s going to be a big effort, and it won’t be done unless you all help us with this analysis,” he told Today.
Lum is also asking the general public to participate and has developed a web page to explain the cards and their importance. This page also includes a form that attendees can complete to report errors and omissions, including missing addresses and incorrect information, on the maps. “We want this to go far,” he said.
Lum said he plans to sort through collected comments on his website and organize them for presentation to counties. Counties will then have the ability to challenge maps where the data is inaccurate, and Lum thinks the FCC may be more responsive to challenges filed by counties than by individuals.
Rebecca Lieberman, director of state government affairs for Charter in Honolulu, said the company is trying to figure out why some data it provided to federal officials detailing where it provides services is not appearing on maps.
“We want this to go far.” — Burt Lum, head of state broadband strategy
“We’re struggling with the map right now,” Lieberman told Broadband Hui. “We realized this week that quite a significant portion of the data we downloaded – especially for Oahu – is not showing up on the map.”
In some cases, homes are receiving service, but maps incorrectly show they are not, Lieberman said.
Jeannine Souki, senior manager of government and regulatory affairs at Hawaiian Telcom, said the company is experiencing similar issues with maps, including areas that appear unserved on maps but actually have service.
She said the maps available today are a “first look” and that there have been reports of “bugs” in the system that have caused serviced areas to appear unserved.
She said the company is working with the FCC to try to resolve these issues, but “looking at the amount of data available for fiber, it looks like there’s a big chunk missing in Hawaii because the number looks pretty low.” She said there is a process in place with the FCC for the utility to make corrections.
Gwen Jacobs, director of cyberinfrastructure for the University of Hawaii’s Information Technology Services and an hui participant, told the group on Wednesday that “it’s really critical to get it right, and also to determine what is the best way to participate in the challenge process. .”
“Any additional information we can bring to the table that goes beyond what the FCC has provided will determine the amount of funding we get,” she said. Souki said his understanding is that the FCC relies on people or companies to challenge the cards.
The FCC plans to make several updates to the maps by the end of June to incorporate new data, including accepted challenges to the maps, said Susan Walters, BEAD regional director for the NTIA. The NTIA encourages entities and individuals to submit challenges by January 13 to allow the FCC time to process them.
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