FCC Investigates Wireless Carriers For Allegedly Lying About Rural Coverage
The FCC upset a lot of people when it voted to repeal net neutrality rules. The Commission then wanted to reduce the speed that is considered to be broadband in some areas, however, the backlash to that move saw the FCC step back and stop its attempts to reclassify broadband speeds in some areas. The FCC has worked to ensure that it's easier for broadband providers to get their speedy services to more people; Google Fiber in particular benefitted from a change in FCC regulations regarding utility pole usage. The FCC has now announced that it is launching an investigation into one or more major wireless carriers.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that the agency is launching an investigation into whether "one or more major carriers" have violated the rules that the FCC set for the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) reverse auction's mapping rules by submitting incorrect coverage maps. MF-II would give up to $4.53 billion over the next ten years to roll out advanced high-speed mobile broadband service in rural areas that wouldn't have service without government backing.
Providers were required to submit current, standardized coverage data that was to be used along with data from the Universal Service Administrative Company to allow the FCC to create an eligibility map for funds to expand service in areas with little or no broadband coverage. The FCC then kicked off a challenge process that was to allow interested parties an opportunity to challenge the initial determination that made an area ineligible for MF-II support. This challenge process is where the FCC saw signs that wireless carriers weren't playing fair.
The investigation that is underway was started after a preliminary review of the 20,809,503 speed tests that were filed with the agency in connection with the challenge process suggested that there had been "significant violations of the Commission's rules." Pai said that the FCC had to ensure that the data the carriers gave it is accurate before the process could continue.
“My top priority is bridging the digital divide and ensuring that Americans have access to digital opportunity regardless of where they live, and the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II program can play a key role in extending high-speed Internet access to rural areas across America,” said Chairman Pai. “In order to reach those areas, it’s critical that we know where access is and where it is not. A preliminary review of speed test data submitted through the challenge process suggested significant violations of the Commission’s rules. That’s why I’ve ordered an investigation into these matters. We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed.”