How to Submit a Successful Fixed Availability Challenge

Bulk availability challenges undergo a two-part review process at the FCC. The first part determines whether or not the challenger has provided enough information to pass an initial screening. The second part (for those challenges that are not conceded) is a determination on the merits, after the challenged ISP has had an opportunity to respond. To make it past the initial screen, bulk challengers must include sufficient information about the data and process used to prepare their challenges, including: (1) selecting a challenge methodology; (2) providing an explanation of how the methodology was applied (either as a narrative description or in an evidence file, depending upon the methodology type); and (3) a description of the evidence provided in support of a challenge (including particularized names and email addresses for bulk challenges submitted based upon information collected from individual consumers). 

The FCC has compiled some tips to clarify the requirements and to help bulk availability challenge filers.

Tip – Evidence provided needs to support the challenge code selected for each challenged provider.

In the system, there are eight challenge codes for a fixed availability challenge.  If one code is selected, but the evidence filed only supports another code, then your submission will likely be rejected.  For example, if you select “Reported Speed not Offered,” but provide an invoice that would support a “Demand for Excessive Connection Charges” challenge, reviewers will reject the submission.  Similarly, if there are multiple providers challenged in a single bulk submission, the challenger must provide evidence against each challenged provider.  

Tip – Evidence does not need to be complicated, but it must be sufficient.

Expensive site surveys or elaborate filings are not necessary to support a valid challenge.  But a one sentence description or unsupported assertion stating that there is no service for a given location or set of locations is insufficient.  Screenshots from websites, emails, or online chats can support a lack of availability.  A narrative clearly explaining the lack of broadband availability and the methodology or approach used by the filer to assess the lack of broadband availability could also be sufficient.  

Tip – Challengers must provide direct evidence for each location they wish to challenge.   Evidence in support of a challenge at a sampling of locations will not be considered to support challenges to other locations. 

For example, screenshots showing the unavailability of service at three locations are insufficient by themselves to support challenges at additional locations "in the same area.”  Challengers may elect to submit sample documentation, such as screenshots, to support an availability challenge at multiple locations provided they sufficiently establish direct knowledge that the same circumstances apply to all challenged locations, i.e., that they have made the same availability query and received the same response for all locations.  If you include evidence for only a subset of challenged locations, you must include an explanation of the methodology or approach taken and why the subset supports the total submission and is representative of all challenged locations.

Examples of Supporting Evidence

Here are some samples of the type of evidence that could support a fixed availability bulk challenge.  This list is illustrative and non-exhaustive—there may be other types of sufficient evidence.

Challenge Code

Examples of Supporting Evidence

1. Provider failed to schedule a service installation within 10 business days of a request.

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of requested service and description of interaction with provider

2. Provider did not install the service at the agreed-upon time.

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of scheduled installation and description of interaction with provider

3. Provider requested more than the standard installation fee to connect this location.

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Copy of installation quote
  • Narrative including date/ time for when an installation quote was provided and description of interaction with provider

4. Provider denied the request for service.

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Screenshots of the provider website indicating service is not available at the location
  • Narrative including date/ time of requesting service and description of interaction with provider

5. Provider does not offer the technology, or service type, at this location.

 

  • Screenshots of the provider website indicating service is not available at the location
  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of requesting service and description of interaction with provider
  • Infrastructure or other physical plant maps or location data 
  • Permit information, provider agreements (fiber and copper)
  • Information about the location of cell towers, signal strength, propagation characteristics, etc. (fixed wireless only)

6. Reported speed not available for purchase.

 

  • Screenshots of promotional or marketing materials from provider website 
  • Screenshots of the provider website indicating the speed is not available for purchase at the location
  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of available speed inquiry and description of interaction with provider

7. Subscribed speed not achievable. 

 

  • Not applicable for Bulk Fixed Challenges – This category code is only available via Bulk Fixed Crowdsource Data Submissions

8. No wireless or satellite signal is available at this location.

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of inquiry and description of interaction with provider
  • Copies of surveys or readings
  • Information about the location of cell towers, signal strength, propagation characteristics, etc. (fixed wireless only)

9. New, non-standard equipment is required to connect this location (satellite/ fixed wireless only).

 

  • Screenshots of email or on-line chat communications with provider
  • Narrative including date/ time of service request and description of interaction with provider
  • Copy of invoice or quote

Tip – Keep in mind, under FCC rules, bulk challenges need to meet a higher standard of evidence than individual consumer challenges.

Bulk challengers must show by clear and convincing evidence that a provider's data are inaccurate.  The evidence provided should be clear and include specifics whenever possible. The evidence also needs to convince the reviewer that the challenge is more likely to be true than untrue.

Reviewers apply this standard when reviewing submissions for bulk challenges, as well as when reviewing non-consumer, individual submissions that are filed by third parties.  For example, if a local government official files individual submissions challenging fixed broadband availability at multiple locations in a municipality, this is essentially a bulk submission and reviewers will evaluate the evidence provided using the clear and convincing standard.

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