In 2018, Bloosurf, a premier broadband internet service provider in the mid-Atlantic region, was awarded subsidies from the Connect America Fund (CAF-II) to build out its broadband service in parts of Delaware and Maryland. The CAF-II award requires service providers to make periodic regulatory filings until they are 100% compliant. However, Bloosurf wanted to be 100% compliant as soon as possible to reduce its regulatory obligations and improve operational efficiency. To meet this 100% compliance goal, Bloosurf had to meet Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)’s regulatory requirements, which included: (a) determining which addresses were tied to which buildings within a parcel and reporting associated lat/longs (“buildingbased geocoding”), and (b) for each address, reporting how many broadband serviceable locations (BSLs) Bloosurf served.
In March 2020, Bloosurf was considering two approaches to obtain this data: (a) sending field staff to survey the locations within its CAF blocks, or (b) conducting a virtual assessment by reviewing aerial imagery to determine BSLs remotely. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloosurf decided against option (a) to keep its field staff safe. While option (b) was possible, Bloosurf realized that the task of reviewing the imagery and making determinations of BSLs remotely was significantly more complex than they anticipated. As a result, Bloosurf reached out to geocoding data providers to assist with making this broadband location structure selection.
However, Bloosurf found that most geocoding providers could not reliably achieve building-based geocoding because they did not have a comprehensive and up-to-date map of buildings across the US to use as reference points. Most geocoding providers offer street segment-based or parcel-based geocoding. Figure 1 below shows that the returned set of coordinates (the “geocodes”) can vary significantly based on the underlying data source for the same area. The geocodes are estimated based on street-segment on the far left, and on the far right, geocodes are parcel-based. Additionally, the bottom of the image shows a significant number of missing new construction addresses.
Assigning their addresses to the right buildings was found to be very challenging, especially in cases where multiple structures were broadband serviceable. In addition to the challenge caused by geocoding, Bloosurf also faced a challenge in determining which structures were broadband serviceable, and how many broadband serviceable locations existed within each parcel remotely. For example, what features should they extract from aerial imagery to help determine whether a structure is broadband serviceable or not? How to build a workflow to enable automated feature extraction and determination of BSLs?
After evaluating numerous solutions, Bloosurf chose Ecopia’s Building-Based Geocoding solution since it was the only solution to meet its completeness, accuracy, and up-to-date requirements. Bloosurf found that there were three reasons why Ecopia could achieve reliable and accurate building-based geocoding:
1. Comprehensive and Accurate Building Footprints
- Comprehensive: Ecopia leverages its proprietary AI algorithms to extract every building greater than 100 sq. ft. across 100% of the contiguous USA from highresolution satellite and aerial images. This results in a database comprising 173M+ building footprints across the US, which includes coverage in all rural areas and Indian reserves.
- Accurate: Ecopia provides contractually guaranteed 95%+ geometric accuracy. This accuracy has been extensively validated by multiple third parties, including the US and Canadian Federal Governments, CoreLogic, and Maxar.
2. Linking Addresses to Footprints
Ecopia uses its proprietary AI-based geocoding engine to specifically handle the many complex address-to-building linking relationships to ensure that the right address is assigned to the right structure(s) at scale. This geocoding process allows the effective matching of 230M+ addresses (primary and secondary addresses) to 173M+ building footprints across the US.
3. Up-to-date Data
Ecopia sources the most recent satellite and aerial images to conduct an annual re-scan of US coast-to-coast imagery. This allows Ecopia to capture all the building changes (new construction, destruction, and modified buildings) promptly.
Figure 2 below highlights key features of Ecopia’s Building-Based Geocoding
(a) Ecopia’s nationwide building footprint coverage spanning 173M+ structures and 230M+ addresses;
(b) Accurate building-address association outputted by Ecopia’s AI-based geocoder'
(c) Ecopia’s frequent data updates ensure that the building-level geocoding is kept up-to-date.
With a robust dataset backing their compliance process, the Bloosurf team quickly gained an early indication of the number of broadband serviceable locations within their coverage area by filtering out nonBSLs (buildings and addresses) based on their criteria. Then, the Bloosurf team worked with Ecopia’s engineering team to combine their deep domain knowledge with Ecopia’s AI and geospatial feature extraction expertise to develop a sophisticated broadband location selection algorithm to produce the final set of results. Figure 3 below shows a sample of the final results produced by the algorithm.
“Using Ecopia’s comprehensive Building-Based Geocoding, Bloosurf was able to quickly identify the broadband serviceable structures on each property parcel with sufficient accuracy, allowing Bloosurf to quickly reach 100% compliance for CAF II in just three months, which resulted in significant cost-savings and enhanced operational efficiency" - Vincent Sabathier, CEO of Bloosurf
Upon HUBB Filing submission, USAC asked for proof for a sample of locations. This proof could be provided because Bloosurf had validated the methodology and data earlier, and therefore, could answer questions and provide screenshots of building footprints and addresses as evidence. Ultimately, USAC approved the filing, and Bloosurf was the 1st CAF-II service provider in the US to achieve 100% compliance within 3 months from the partnership with Ecopia – an incredible achievement!
To gain a better understanding of how virtual assessment of BSLs can be conducted with Ecopia’s building-based geocoding, please reach out to our team.
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