Overreporting on State Broadband Maps Could Hinder Spread of Connectivity to Communities

NEW ORLEANS, May 10, 2023 – Overreporting served areas on broadband coverage maps may serve to disguise connectivity needs of communities, said Jason Hunt, CEO of CableSouth, speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. 

Louisiana’s state broadband office, ConnectLA, is working to build a state challenge process based on federal guidance for state broadband maps.  

Providers tend to inflate coverage claims, which represents the most fundamental issue of broadband coverage maps, Hunt claimed. Unfortunately, the areas in which speed claims are inflated are left out of funding opportunities, he said.  

For Louisiana, this issue is why a state challenge process is so essential, said Thomas Tyler, deputy director of ConnectLA. Federal guidance suggests that the challenge process errs on the side of accepting challenges, which can serve to eliminate overreporting, he added. 

Hunt, whose company does business as Swyft Fiber, expressed uncertainty that the process will solve the problem. According to NTIA guidance, only non-profits, internet service providers and communities can submit challenges. Individuals looking to challenge speed claims must rely on community institutions to submit the challenge.  

Photo of Jason Hunt of CableSouth, Tiffany Howard of LCTCS, Greg Ford of Southern University at New Orleans, Thomas Tyler of ConnectLA, and Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast (left to right)

ConnectLA is working on the allocation and deployment process of its Giving Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program, which includes $176 million from the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund. The office is also deploying broadband through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. 

The state is supplementing the National Broadband Map, which is populated with national, location-level coverage data, with its own data from the GUMBO and RDOF programs. The maps have “changed the game” for providers, said Hunt.  

The GUMBO program also invests capital in workforce development. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System is using money to educate college campuses on available careers in the telecommunications industry and to develop training programs for its students. The program has seen a lot of success, said Tiffany Howard, director of transportation and logistics at LCTCS. 

Applications for the GUMBO program require that potential awardees submit workforce development plans to support future needs, she added. 

Louisiana was the first state to receive planning funds from the Digital Equity and Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment programs and will be the first to release its plans. We are excited to receive public feedback from our plans, said Tyler.

The Broadband Breakfast Live Online event was orchestrated with ConnectLA and hosted at the Greater New Orleans Foundation on Tuesday. It was pre-recorded and webcast on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event here on Broadband Breakfast.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023, 12 Noon ET – GUMBO and Louisiana’s Broadband Progress

Since its creation in 2020, Louisiana’s state broadband office has accrued an impressive list of accomplishments: Louisiana was the first state to be awarded a planning grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the first state to receive federal approval for broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan and the nation’s number one state for per capita adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program. With an ambitious goal of eliminating Louisiana’s digital divide by 2029, ConnectLA’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program — otherwise known as GUMBO — recently awarded more than $170 million to projects that ultimately aim to serve over 80,000 locations across the state. In this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session, hear directly from the leaders of Louisiana’s broadband efforts about how they are approaching this pivotal moment.

Panelists:

  • Jason Hunt, CEO, CableSouth
  • Tiffany Howard, Director of Transportation and Logistics, Louisiana Community and Technical College System
  • Greg Ford, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Southern University at New Orleans
  • Thomas Tyler, Deputy Director, ConnectLA
  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Jason Hunt is CEO of CableSouth.

Dr. Tiffany J. Howard, CWD, serves on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s Academic and Workforce team as the Director of Transportation Industry Initiatives. She is responsible for providing technical assistance, leadership, and support concerning high-quality training programs that meet the state’s and prospective employers’ needs. Her major projects include designing and implementing the first dual enrollment Transportation pathway curriculum, leading the $3.5M Professional Resilience Occupations (PRO) project in collaboration with the Office of Community Development, leading the statewide $10M Broadband training project, leading the nationwide Noncredit and Credit Alignment project, serving as lead on the Haas training project, and establishing partnerships with various industries seeking workforce solutions across the state.

Dr. Gregory Ford is a native of Louisiana and the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Southern University at New Orleans. Dr. Ford is the Principal Investigator on a $3M National Telecommunication and Information Administration-Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Grant to provide digital literacy and broadband access to the New Orleans Area. The goal of the grant is to address digital equity and inclusion in underserved communities.

Thomas Tyler, deputy director of ConnectLA, has experience in technology strategy, cybersecurity concerns, economic development and public policy disciplines. Throughout the past 13 years, he has operated in a variety of roles supporting public and private entities. Most recently, he served as a consultant and adviser for one of the nation’s leading cybersecurity and technology advisory practices. Thomas’ experience includes providing information security and technology strategy, consulting and training services to a variety of clients.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

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See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.



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