New Broadband Maps in the Works

Posted: June 21, 2021

Updated cartography better spotlights unserved/underserved areas of Tennessee

After years of telcos relying on the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband infrastructure maps and using the challenge process to secure grant funding, new maps will help to better deploy broadband in unserved or underserved areas across Tennessee.

“With the new maps, we can make sure we’re awarding grants to areas that truly need broadband,” says Crystal Ivey, broadband director, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Current Process

While data for the FCC broadband infrastructure availability maps is collected from providers twice a year on a census block level, it sometimes leads to the maps overstating the true availability of broadband.

“Right now, we’re allowing Tennessee Broadband Association (TNBA) members to challenge the FCC data in their grant application and show evidence to disprove the information,” Ivey says. “With the new map, telcos will no longer use the FCC challenge process.”

New Process

With $100 million committed to improve broadband across Tennessee over the next two years, the Volunteer State is working to create its own maps to help address the issue.

“This summer we began working with a mapping vendor to produce a granular, statewide broadband availability map,” Ivey says. “It’s expected to be complete about June 2022. Because the new maps will be more accurate, there will likely be more areas for TNBA members to apply.”

Until then, telcos will continue using the challenge process with FCC maps.

Telco providers across Tennessee will have to participate by providing data for the new maps. Then, the TNECD will undergo a validation process, which will include a consumer input process. Finally, vendors will do field validation testing to physically go into these areas and confirm service is present.

“Creating this map will go a long way to making sure everyone in Tennessee is served with broadband,” Ivey says.