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Community Broadband Kit

Use Community Broadband Kit to get the objective truth about an area’s broadband reality.

Community Broadband Kit: Get the truth about broadband in your area

Communities and broadband grant proposal teams use Community Broadband Kit to get the objective truth about an area’s broadband reality. Update your community’s Broadband Audit, conduct a broadband needs assessment, and find & prove Unserved and Underserved Broadband Serviceable Locations in your broadband grant proposal area.

Why do you need Community Broadband Kit?

The short answer: Some folks in your area have bad internet. America’s investing billions of dollars to fix this nationwide. 

Your area could and probably should get its share of the money, but it probably won’t. There’s an unreliable map that might not show the real need for broadband in your area, but the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s got your back. If you want, you can prove your area needs better broadband.

It’s up to you to help your area get its share. How can you help to ensure your area gets its share? Ensure your area has an accurate Broadband Audit. The Community Broadband Kit (Kit for short) lets you do that. The Kit gives you the tools you need to understand your area’s broadband reality.

Background: The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021 provides $42.5 billion to close the digital divide through the Broadband Equity and Access Deployment (BEAD) grant program. 

States and territories can apply for this grant funding through the NTIA. The program allows local governments and service providers to apply for grants to upgrade or extend network infrastructure to unserved (defined as service below 25 Mbps download or 3 Mbps upload) and underserved (service below 100 Mbps download or 25 Mbps upload) broadband serviceable locations – but only if your state / territory is aware, of and acknowledges this need.

In order to determine unserved and underserved broadband serviceable locations, your state / territory can rely on the Federal Communications Commission's “Fabric” map authorized under the Broadband Data Collection program. This map is the result of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, or the Broadband DATA Act (BDA). 

However, states are not obligated to use the FCC's data. There are many reasons why, as a grant applicant, you might not want your state / territory to rely on FCC’s Fabric map to determine your community or grant proposal area's eligibility for BEAD funding. 

You can perform your own broadband speed tests. This process requires updating and validating your area’s Broadband Audit through observed performance at broadband serviceable locations.

 

Use Community Broadband Kit to update and strengthen your area’s Broadband Audit

To ensure your area’s Broadband Audit is strong, defensible, and validated, use the Community Broadband Kit to gather the data your state needs in order to understand the objective truth about broadband in your area.

The Kit lets your community, or grant proposal team, generate fresh, empirical, source-of-truth data about the current broadband reality as experienced by the people who live in the area.

  1. Community Broadband Kit works to update and strengthen the Broadband Audit, the official open record of your community / broadband grant proposal area’s objective broadband reality.
  2. Community Broadband Kit gives you tools to create your community’s custom instance. You can even publish it at your website for maximum local trust. Learn more in the lesson on setting up your community kit.
  3. With Community Broadband Kit you get a built-in tool for conducting a comprehensive broadband needs assessment in your community. Get going before your state publishes its BEAD guidelines!

Use Community Broadband Kit to answer these questions, and more:

  • What if Fabric is wrong about our area?
  • How do we prove unserved and underserved locations in our area?
  • How do we conduct a broadband needs assessment?
  • How do we build and update our Broadband Audit?
  • What is average internet performance in our area?
  • How do we survey our community and test broadband performance?
  • How do you make our Broadband Audit defensible for the Challenge Process?
  • How much BEAD funding should we get for broadband?

 

What does the Community Broadband Kit include?

Community Broadband Kit bundles a number of essential tools into a single, easy-to-use system:

  1. Multiple Internet Strength Tests Broadband Mapping Coalition’s recommended methodology for measuring broadband performance recommends not relying on a single internet strength test, so the Kit bundles three tests – all run from one button. The tests are also designed to remind test-takers to take the test multiple times over a period of two weeks.
  2. Broadband Needs Assessment Survey The Kit includes a rich set of questions you can ask test-takers in your area while they take the test. Get an accurate, robust understanding of broadband needs and current broadband availability in your broadband grant proposal area.
  3. Distribution Tools for Residences and Community Anchor Institutions The Kit is designed to be distributed directly to residents in your proposal area, as well as to anchor institutions who can help amplify your test-taker reach (and run the test themselves, for a complete understanding of broadband need in your area).
  4. Tools to customize to your community’s identity The Kit’s testing and survey tools can be tailored to your community in order to maximize test-taker trust. You can even publish the Kit’s testing & survey tools at a web address trusted by your community. See the official ~City of Detroit’s broadband test~ (powered by the Kit) for an example.
  5. Dashboard for understanding your area’s broadband reality As the Kit admin you’ll be able to follow along with the progress and journey of your Kit as it starts to build up understanding of broadband reality in your area.

 

When should we use Community Broadband Kit?

In order to be ready for the upcoming series of Challenge Processes (which kick off once Fabric is released November 2022) you should start using Community Broadband Kit asap. The process is time-sensitive, and not far away. Incumbent monopolies are counting on you not being ready in time.

You’ll want a robust result set by February 2023 and no later than April 2023. It takes time to rally people and anchor institutions in your area, and you need test data across a few weeks in order to make sure the results are fully defensible against monopoly incumbents.

While you could get away with results gathered over a two week period, in practice, you should try for two months to allow time for stakeholder meetings, getting the word out, and maximizing the number of tests taken.

 

How do we update our Broadband Audit?

Launching your Community Broadband Kit is easy. Follow these three steps:

  1. Apply for your free Community Broadband Kit today.
  2. Once approved, Launch your Kit. You’ll get an email granting access. See the guide for setting it up. (link to guide new window)
  3. Get people to take your test & survey. See the guide on getting people to take your test. (links to Lesson on distribution)

 

Where should we set up the Kit? Where does it test?

The Kit’s software lives in the cloud. You can point to it from a community web address. You don’t need to worry about test infrastructure, unless you want to deploy the open source version.

The Kit pings multiple servers near and far from your test area for a more comprehensive understanding of broadband reality within your area.

The Kit includes a geofence – you define your test area during setup. It’s okay if you’re not 100% certain what areas ought to be included in your Kit’s geofence, because you’ll be able to refine your proposal area in a future step.

 

How much does Community Broadband Kit cost?

Given the massive, rapid need for robust data in order to help state’s guide BEAD allocations to areas of provable need, we decided to make the Kit 100% free.

 

Roadmap

While the Community Kit is available to start using today, enhancements are on the way. Coming soon:

  1. Tools to directly ping your area’s anchor institutions with a link to your test
  2. Physical hardware variant: set up beacons in your area, powered by Nokia & Bell Labs equipment

Have an idea for ways to improve the Kit? Ping us anytime.

 

Open source

Want to inspect the Community Broadband Kit for accuracy, or deploy it in your own suite of broadband tools? We’ve made the source code available for you. Please note, in order to use the open source repository directly, you’ll need two things:

  1. You’ll need to implement your own geospatial and administrative backend.
  2. License Ookla’s testing suite directly in order to use their test (or swap in your own).

Want to contribute to making the test better? Submit a pull request, and ping us for a shoutout!

 

Thank You

The Community Broadband Kit was built following the Broadband Mapping Coalition’s recommended methodology for mapping broadband performance, and with guidance from the Coalition’s mapping experts. Special thank you to Dustin Loup, Lai Yi Ohlsen, Glenn Fishbine, Michael Kleeman, Eugene Chang, Mike Conlow, and David Tuber.