About the Fabric: What a Broadband Serviceable Location (BSL) Is and Is Not

A broadband serviceable location (BSL) is “a business or residential location in the United States at which mass-market fixed broadband Internet access service is, or can be, installed.” 

  • Residential BSLs include all residential structures, including structures that are (or contain) housing units or group quarters (as those terms are defined by the United States Census Bureau). 
  • Business BSLs include all non-residential (business, government, non-profit, etc.) structures that are on property without residential locations and that would be expected to demand mass-market, non-enterprise-grade Internet access service. 

The Fabric reflects each BSL as a single point or record defined by a set of geographic coordinates that fall within the footprint of a structure, and each point is assigned a unique Commission-issued Location ID.  In addition to the location_id and coordinates, each BSL record includes an address (if available), unit count, and land-use category.  All BSL records are included in the Active Fabric data file and have a bsl_flag of TRUE. Certain non-BSL records, including locations that we expect would not subscribe to mass-market broadband service, are included in a separate file and are marked with the bsl_flag of FALSE.

A note about addresses:  The Fabric is a dataset of structures, not addresses.  Most BSLs have an address associated with them as one of their attributes.  Further, in order for a new structure to be added to the Fabric, it generally must have an address.  But an address by itself does not equate to a BSL, and not all buildings or parcels with an address are BSLs.  For example, an unimproved parcel or lot may have an address, but unless a habitable structure exists on that a parcel and is associated with an address, it will not be considered a BSL.  Moreover, a single structure could have several addresses associated with it, but it would be reflected in the Fabric as one single BSL.  We recommend users review the additional files included with the Fabric for the additional addresses that could be associated with a specific location.  These can be found in the secondary address file.  Please see the Fabric Data Dictionaries for more information on these files.

Examples of buildings or structures that are BSLs:

  • A single-family home on a single-family parcel
    • If the home is habitable, even if it is not occupied, it would be considered a BSL.
    • A home with multiple housing units, such as a main home and a basement apartment would be considered one BSL.
  • A townhouse or rowhouse that is on its own parcel
  • An apartment or condominium building 
    • The individual units within an apartment or condo building are not considered BSLs but are reflected in the unit count for the BSLs
    • Each building in an apartment or condo complex is typically counted as a single BSL. 
  • A duplex or cluster of townhouses that are on one parcel
    • Each townhouse or part of a duplex would be counted as a unit but would not be considered a separate BSL.
  • A group quarters building such as a college dormitory, a nursing home, or military barracks  
    • These are buildings where people live and typically have communal living and eating areas.
  • A building that houses a single or multiple small businesses that typically subscribe to mass-market broadband Internet service.  These include, for example:
    • Restaurants
    • Drycleaners
    • Gift and clothing stores
    • Salons and barber shops
    • Day care centers
    • A medical building with doctor’s offices
  • A mixed-use building that includes retail on the first level and apartments above.

Examples of buildings or structures that are not BSLs:

  • Secondary structures on a residential parcel that are not the main residence or home.  These include, for example:
    • Standalone garages
    • Alternative dwelling units (ADUs)
    • Pool houses
    • Barns
    • Stables
    • Dog houses
    • Chicken coops
    • Grain silos
    • Recreational vehicles
    • Sheds
    • NOTE: Even if a secondary structure on a residential parcel is lived in and would be considered a housing unit (an ADU that is rented on VRBO, for example), it is typically not considered its own BSL. The exception to this would be a second residential structure that has its own address with its own street number, separate from the address of the main or other residence.
  • Residential structures that do not meet the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of a housing unit because they are not habitable. This could include dilapidated houses or houses that are under construction but not yet habitable. If a house is demolished, it is not considered a BSL unless and until it is rebuilt.
  • Empty lots with no structures
  • A building that includes one or multiple businesses that would subscribe to enterprise-grade, non-mass-market broadband Internet service. This would include large office buildings, corporate campuses, and warehouses. These may be included in the Fabric, but will have bsl_flag of FALSE and appear on the map as grey dots.
  • Most community anchor institutions (CAIs), such as schools, libraries, community centers, and government buildings.  For more information on how different types of CAIs are treated, see the Fabric Methods Manual.  For information on how to change the status of a BSL to a CAI or a CAI to a BSL, see How to Identify a Community Anchor Institution as a Broadband Serviceable Location.
  • Parking garages
  • Geological features that can sometimes appear to be structures in aerial imagery.

Visual examples of structures or land features that are not BSLs:

Solar farm cells, such as this one at 38.0284658, -84.2533334:


Ammunition depots, which contain many buildings to store ammunition but are not BSLs:


Burning Man, which is a temporary festival village but does not contain BSLs (40.7835310, -119.2092700):


Land with structures but no BSL’s, such as this parcel (at 37.3537545, -85.6153852).  This is an example taken from a farm where one parcel contains the residential structure, which is a BSL, and the other parcel contains work buildings, which are not BSLs.


Boats are not considered individual BSLs, but a marina may be a BSL.


Structures without walls, such as these, are not BSLs:


Surface mines or quarries are not BSLs.  The outbuildings may be BSLs, but the mine itself is not.


Individual units within an apartment or condo building are not considered BSLs, but each building in an apartment or condo complex is typically counted as a single BSL. (39.14143413255639, -84.40651907796726) 

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