FCC plans to turn over private data to aid broadband stimulus

The public has until Monday (Dec. 7) to comment on plans the FCC announced the day before Thanksgiving to release its vast database of private telecom services to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for it to use in evaluating whether broadband stimulus proposals refer to so-called “unserved” and “underserved” areas.

The FCC is considering handing over to the NTIA information in its 477 forms, which facilities-based service providers are required to submit twice a year. The forms detail each provider’s voice and broadband service subscribers and availability along with the maximum speeds of each service and other information. The FCC has historically allowed companies to request the information to be kept confidential but includes that information, aggregated anonymously, in published reports. NTIA, in its request for the data, said it would keep confidential information private, adhering if necessary to the same process the FCC uses in response to public requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The move comes as broadband providers are filing challenges en masse to applications for broadband stimulus funds. Incumbent providers typically object on the grounds that they themselves already offer broadband in the area proposed by the applicant. Federal administrators require those challengers to submit data proving their claims about existing service availability and have warned that they would require “overwhelming” evidence. Though challengers have already begun submitting their evidence, the use of 477 forms may provide federal administrators with more detailed data.

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