December 7, 2018
By Jon Reid
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether major carriers submitted incorrect broadband mapping data for a program aimed at expanding mobile wireless internet access to rural areas.
An agency review of more than 20 million speed tests filed by carriers for the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II program “suggested significant violations of the Commission’s rules,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Dec. 7 statement announcing the probe.
“That’s why I’ve ordered an investigation into these matters,” Pai said. “We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed.”
The FCC’s Mobility Fund II would dole out up to $4.53 billion in Universal Service Fund subsidies to bring high-speed, wireless internet to underserved areas over the next decade. The agency didn’t name any carriers in its announcement.
Some lawmakers have raised concerns about whether the map is accurately targeting the areas in most need of subsidies.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the likely Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman in the next Congress, said the investigation proves that the “the FCC’s mapping procedure is fatally flawed.”
“It is important for us to get this coverage map right so we can accurately target federal support to the communities in need of broadband service,” Wicker said in a statement.
Interested parties had until Nov. 26 to challenge the map. The period for entities to respond to those challenges won’t start until after the investigation is completed, the FCC said.
Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement that he had raised concerns about the broadband mapping data with Pai.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement, welcomed the investigation, but said “the FCC has a lot more work to do.”
“The FCC’s wireless maps are totally inadequate,” Rosenworcel said. “It’s time for the agency to fix this mess and make its maps credible.”