Ahead of Friday’s deadline, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Alexandria, called attention to a challenge submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pointing to more than 350,000 locations in Virginia that are currently incorrectly reported on the most recent FCC broadband coverage map.
In November, after a sustained push from Warner, the FCC released a new map with their best estimates of broadband coverage across the country. Once finalized, the FCC map will help determine how broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated and written by Warner, will be allocated to states. Warner asked Virginians to review the released draft map to ensure it accurately reflected current broadband conditions at their address, and encouraged residents submit a challenge to the FCC if the information was incorrect. Virginians must submit their challenges by January 13 to ensure that they are adjudicated prior to the allocation of IIJA funding.
In addition to individual challenges submitted, the Virginia Office of Broadband has submitted a bulk challenge of approximately 358,000 locations currently reported as served but found to be unserved, based on the office’s analysis. In a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Warner highlighted the need for the map to accurately reflect the current state of broadband coverage in Virginia and asked the FCC to carefully consider Virginia’s submitted challenges.
“In partnership with Virginia Tech, the Virginia Office of Broadband found that there are approximately 358,000 locations in Virginia that are reported on the new map as being served when, in fact, they currently lack access to broadband. Given that the funding provided to states by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is calculated based on the number of unserved locations in each state, it’s important that the number of unserved locations is accurately calculated,” Warner wrote in the letter. “I hope that you will carefully review the challenges submitted by individual Virginians as well as the bulk challenge submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband. I appreciate your attention to this important issue and thank you for your efforts to close the digital divide.”
Regarding Virginia’s submitted challenges, Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Director of the Office of Broadband at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, said Friday, “The number of locations in Virginia the FCC thinks are unserved directly affects the amount of money Virginia will receive under BEAD. We plan to challenge hundreds of thousands of locations we believe are incorrectly reported as served in the FCC’s map, potentially securing additional funding for Virginia and allowing the Commonwealth to achieve universal access in Virginia.”
Warner has long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Sen. Warner secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband, increase access, and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, created and funded through this landmark legislation, provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all states and territories. An accurate map will play a critical role in ensuring that this funding is used efficiently.