Three steps states must take when adjudicating CPC challenges

Numerous states are undergoing BEAD challenge processes and the stakes for broadband offices to properly adjudicate couldn’t be higher.

Virginia’s challenge process, which launched in November, has resulted in 266,000 challenges across 163,00 eligible locations. Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Virginia’s broadband director, says the review process is taking longer than initially anticipated as the process moves into the rebuttal phase.

Louisiana was the first state to launch its challenge process in October 2023 and is currently awaiting results of the process.

State broadband offices seeking a successful challenge process and, by extension, a smooth adjudication process should be sure take these three steps: 

Always be sure to limit the number of addresses per challenge

States seeking the best results should be sure to adopt a “less is more” mindset.  

States should accept no more than 500 locations in a single challenge as a smaller amount of locations eliminates the risk of a bulk denial. It’s better to submit multiple challenges with a smaller number of locations than one single challenge with hundreds of locations.

It’s important to incentivize stakeholders to group locations with one another logistically, such as by geographical proximity. Challenges should feature addresses within a 25 mile radius of one another and along county lines rather than 250 miles from each other and across five separate counties in different corners of the state.

“It’s about striking the balance between the number of addresses in each challenge being as low as possible, but also avoiding too many challenges with too many addresses in smaller communities,” Earnie Holtrey, Ready's Director of State and Local Government Relationships and Indiana's former broadband director, said. “States are going to have to figure out the best way to strike this balance with their communities.” 

Be sure to ask for as much evidence and data as possible to make for a strong adjudication 

States possess enormous discretion (with NTIA approval) to establish a challenge process, per the BEAD NOFO. State broadband offices must utilize data and evidence to run a successful, data-driven broadband office along with adjudicating challenges submitted through the challenge process.

Additionally, the NOFO grants the ability for states to determine their geographic location of its choice for applicants. This means that some states will choose to utilize pre-defined locations while others will choose to allow applicants to define their project areas.

“If the Eligible Entity allows prospective subgrantees to define proposed project areas, it must develop a mechanism for de-conflicting overlapping proposals (for example, by de-scoping some locations from a provider’s proposed project area) to allow for like-to-like comparison of competing proposals,” reads the BEAD NOFO.  “Whatever process is selected, the Eligible Entity must ensure it has a plan for serving all unserved and (where it has sufficient funding) underserved locations.”

The best way for states to take advantage of this flexibility is by  utilizing an easy-to-use platform that fulfills each state’s individual requirements along with those set by BEAD and NTIA, but also avoids human error. The platform additionally should incorporate geospatial tools to ensure evidentiary standards are met and streamlines workflows. 

Challenges that are strong make for an easy adjudication 

Prepare municipalities, non-profit organizations and elected officials to make their strongest challenges through effective stakeholder engagement.

This starts with explaining the challenge process to those who are eligible to submit challenges and helping to craft task forces to reach locations eligible for challenges. Connect Louisiana’s executive director Venneth Iyengar and Thomas Tyler, deputy director, hosted a series of events across the Bayou State explaining the challenge process, what constitutes a strong challenge and how to use the state’s custom platform built by Ready to submit a challenge.  

“It’s important to remember that your stakeholders aren’t anywhere near as informed about BEAD or the challenge process as the office which is in the driver’s seat,” Holtrey said. “States must fill in the gaps of this knowledge and clearly illustrate what’s a strong challenge.”

Ready is a Public Benefit Corporation led by a team of computer scientists, data scientists and NTIA alums devoted to helping broadband professionals solve the digital divide.

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