Hillary explains how $42B in BEAD funding was earmarked by the federal government for increasing broadband access within states, and how each state’s share of funding was essentially determined based on the percent of unserved and underserved BSLs they had compared to others, as determined by the FCC BSL fabric map. To ensure this map accurately represented the real world, states had the opportunity to submit a list of addresses not currently represented on the FCC’s map via a location challenge process. However, disparate addressing and building datasets in Arizona and Alaska made this difficult without a comprehensive source of truth to analyze, and manual digitization or map annotation is extremely resource-intensive.
As large and diverse states, both Alaska and Arizona faced similar challenges when applying for BEAD funding. For example, 70% of Alaska’s landmass (and the 4th most populated area) does not have a local government to manage an authoritative source of address data. Similarly, Arizona struggled to develop a complete and up-to-date building footprint database given rapid population growth in urban areas and data scarcity in rural and tribal areas.
By working with Dewberry and Ecopia, both states were able to create and gather statewide location information derived from up-to-date geospatial imagery, which were then used to perform GIS analysis and submit challenges for BEAD funding applications. Hillary concludes by sharing details on the expected ROI for using geocoding and building footprint data for broadband expansion, and the recent BEAD funding announcement showcases exactly how this data helped the states receive a combined $2B to promote digital equity.
The role of AI in public safety GIS
Following this discussion on statewide data collaboration for broadband, Tim Scott from the New Hampshire Department of Safety presents his thoughts and experience on geospatial data sharing for public safety applications. Specifically, he focuses on how AI is changing the game for states looking to develop a comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date database of addresses, building footprints, and unnamed navigable features such as driveways, parking lots, and access roads so that response teams can reach emergency callers quickly - ultimately saving more lives.
As the Technology Manager for the New Hampshire Emergency Services and Communications division of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Tim has experienced how both data quality and accessibility can have dire consequences for state agencies. While many public safety agencies lack the data necessary to reach emergency callers as quickly as possible, others are forced to use inaccurate or out-of-date information, which is often worse. Thanks to AI-based mapping, authoritative data can now be generated efficiently, but geospatial professionals often cannot access data across different local and state government agencies. Tim and Sean then emphasize how the same data needed for broadband expansion is foundational to public safety GIS, so should be shared amongst all state agencies that can make use of it. They also discuss how this data can be with neighboring states who may need it to assist during particular emergency situations.
The discussion also touches on how expanding upon this statewide database with 3D buildings provides an added layer of situational awareness that can mean the difference between life and death. As the global population trends towards urbanization, having 3D building data is crucial so response teams can locate exactly where a person in need is calling from, including their elevation. Sean supports Tim’s point by highlighting how emergency response teams across the US are leveraging 3D building data created by Ecopia in this way.