Today, through Broadlinc, Spokane County successfully challenged data on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps, adding more new Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs) than any public entity in the state of Washington.

“Broadband has become the new modern essential utility. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified high-capacity internet is no longer a luxury for entertainment at home, but a critical element for household resiliency. Those with reliable Internet can work from home, learn from home, access health and mental health resources from home and maintain community from home. We are proud of the innovative approach our team took to challenging and ultimately updating FCC maps with broadband service in Spokane County. This will pay dividends down the road, as federal and state funding may be allocated based on this data. We now have a more complete picture of where the digital divide still persists in our county,” -Ariane Schmidt, Executive Director.

Background: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) embarked on a landmark effort to capture points across the nation to denote Broadband Serviceable Locations (or BSLs). This has become known as the National Broadband Map. These maps provide the best picture available to date of where broadband is and is not available across the country. The FCC has requested a series of iterations to increase the accuracy of its maps through a public challenge process. The most recent of these was in March of 2023. Spokane County, through the BROADLINC Public Development Authority, chose to utilize an innovative approach to documenting missed BSLs for FCC consideration. Local experts identified the use of E911 data used to validate the location of emergency calls for service, as the best baseline of minimum locations in our county for which broadband was needed. The premise of the using these data points was that if an individual can call for help from a location, it is also a place that could benefit from high-capacity internet access.

Broadlinc and the Spokane County Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff used E911 data and the FCC point layer and found over 22,000 locations and submitted to these to the FCC as missing points. The FCC confirmed back to BROADLINC that the entire submission would be added to the Washington State BLS additions. Spokane County had more approved points than all other Tribes and counties in the state – combined.