Senators Say The FCC's Broadband Maps are a Bad Joke

from the hide-a-problem-so-you-don't-have-to-fix-it dept

We’ve noted for some time how the broadband industry fights tooth and nail against more accurate broadband availability mapping, since having a better understanding of the broadband industry’s competition problem might just result in somebody actually doing something about it. This dysfunction and apathy was most recently illustrated with the FCC’s recent release of an “updated” broadband availability map, which all but hallucinates competition, speeds, and overall availability. This map (available here) also omits pricing data at industry behest, resulting in a $300 million pair of rose-colored glasses.

But it’s not just the FCC’s broadband availability map that’s under fire. FCC maps that determine which area get wireless subsidies (more specifically Mobility Fund Phase II (MF II) funding) are also a bad joke for many of the same reasons. As such, a group of Senators from both parties fired off a letter to the FCC last week, politely pointing out how the FCC’s new wireless coverage map dramatically overstates the availability of wireless broadband service:

“We write this letter to express our serious concerns that the map released by the Federal Communications Commission last week showing presumptive eligible areas for Mobility Fund Phase II (MF II) support may not be an accurate depiction of areas in need of universal service support. We understand that the map was developed based on a preliminary assessment from a one-time data collection effort that will be verified through a challenge process. However, we are concerned that the map misrepresents the existence of 4G LTE services in many areas. As a result, the Commission?s proposed challenge process may not be robust enough to adequately address the shortcomings in the Commission?s assessment of geographic areas in need of support for this proceeding.”

When you’re crafting telecom policy, actually understanding the “reality on the ground” is arguably important. But if you can twist, manipulate, and distort the data to indicate the industry doesn’t have any real problems, you can justify the kind of head-in-sand approach to leadership that birthed the telecom industry’s dysfunction in the first place. In this case, the MF II is intended to provide $4.53 billion in support over 10 years to preserve and expand mobile coverage to rural areas, something that won’t actually happen if maps aren’t correctly illustrating which areas need help and which areas don’t.

The Senators were quick to point this out in their letter to Ajit Pai, who has repeatedly and breathlessly professed his dedication to closing the digital divide, even while the lion’s share of his policies work to make these problems inherently worse:

“For too long, millions of rural Americans have been living without consistent and reliable mobile broadband service. Identifying rural areas as not eligible for support will exacerbate the digital divide, denying fundamental economic opportunities to these rural communities. We strongly urge the Commission to accurately and consistently identify areas that do not have unsubsidized 4G LTE service and provide Congress with an update on final eligible areas before auctioning $4.53 billion of MF II support.”

Some lawmakers, like New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, have taken to begging for public input on their websites in the hopes of getting a more accurate picture of real-world coverage. Some, like Kansas Senator Jerry Moran say the FCC map’s ?value is nil,” while Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker stated the FCC’s map was “utterly worthless of giving us good information.” That’s not particularly impressive for an FCC that has been crowing about how data driven it is, but it’s the price of supporting revolving door regulators who prioritize monopoly revenues over science, competition, innovation or the welfare of the public.

And while the telecom industry will be quick to insist that this is just the inherent dysfunction of government at play, the reality that this is a feature, not a bug. ISPs have routinely fought tooth and nail against every and any attempt to build better maps, fearing that a more accurate picture will only result in efforts to not only (gasp) improve competition, but might result in the subsidizing of smaller competitors that could disrupt the comfortable (but very, very broken) telecom sector status quo.

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Comments on “Senators Say The FCC's Broadband Maps are a Bad Joke”

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50 Comments
Vidiot (profile) says:

Need to insert "mobile" every time broadband is mentioned

There’s an underlying issue here: in this story, “broadband” means mobile broadband, but in many contexts, it’s used as a surrogate for wired broadband… high-speed household connections for multiple users. There’s a big difference. Considering wireless broadband pricing schemes, it’s no substitute for underserved low-to-moderate income customers.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: I really don't understand this one at all

They want the money, but they don’t want to have to put in ANY effort to get it. They just want “free” money. So they need maps that get them the money, but not maps that show where WORK is actually needed. The maps need to show areas already covered so that telecos can collect the money and claim ‘work done’.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: availability

When the government requires internet use so citizens can perform any of their rights (or obligations) towards said government then they must ensure such access is available. Also, when a service has become such an integral part of the citizenry lives for communications, health and other needs then again, govt musty ensure such access is available.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 availability

And you wonder why we are losing liberty left and right.

Your logic is pretty bankrupt. There is no reasonable end to what the government can control with it.

You are not required to have the Internet to perform any rights, and it is a intellectually dishonest claim to make.

You can still do everything with pen, paper, and money. But if you are going to lie, might as well go for the gusto right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 availability

Yes, I suppose you could, however you left out a few things. For example, going to the library to find an address to send your correspondence to. There are some businesses that seem to be online only, I have not attempted to write them a letter with an attached order form. If you are in need of a particular item/part/component not available from your local businesses – where ya gonna go? Who ya gonna call? Are they in the phone book or will you need to look it up online?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 availability

You are not required to have the Internet to perform any rights, and it is a intellectually dishonest claim to make.

Pot, meet kettle.

I know nobody at all who uses the internet to "perform any rights" but I use the internet for my job in the call centre I work in, I use it to contact my loved ones and friends, and I use it to look up information from the comfort of my own home. Moreover, when I worked as a web designer internet was integral to my business model.

Many of the companies my employers have dealings with operate mostly on the internet, i.e. we place orders online.

So… bearing all of the above in mind you might want to re-think your intellectually dishonest comment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wow, you’re now actually reduced to calling out the “behaviour” of other accounts you’ve noticed and called out in other, completely unrelated threads? Without a single word being said to the subject or content of the article you’re commenting upon? Wow, you must be getting really desperate.

Erm, you do know that those people won’t see this message anyway? People don’t get notified because some moron’s ranting about them in a different thread to the one they’re reading. Assuming you’re right about them being magically risen from the dead and not just lurkers who don’t regularly post, of course. The version of them that exists in this reality might still be lurking.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He doesn’t think those are real, distinct people anyway, so his blaring rants aren’t directed at them; they’re intended to alert anyone who reads the site to the fact that this account hasn’t posted in so long that (he thinks) it’s more plausible that the site’s administrators are resurrecting the long-dead account to make sock-puppet posts than that the person behind the account either has been away for a (possibly long) while, or just hasn’t felt the need to say anything for that same while. (Or some combination of the two, I suppose.)

Even he would probably admit that one long-dead account posting again isn’t beyond the bounds of believability, which is why he keeps pointing it out every time he notices another such account doing so; the idea is that the plausibility of it being something other than admin sock-puppeting reduces with every additional account which pops back up that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bru

the idea is that the plausibility of it being something other than admin sock-puppeting reduces with every additional account which pops back up that way.

OMG! Someone actually GETS IT AND SAYS SO.

Yes, it’s because are ALSO THESE SIX with over SIX YEAR GAPS:

Advocate (to Keisar Betancourt and back!): 86 (9) SIX YEAR GAP from 2007 https://www.techdirt.com/user/advocate

Andrew or Andrew Duane: 13 (1) 6 year gap; Jan 7th, 2008 https://www.techdirt.com/user/andrewlduane

CmdrKeene: 4 (less than 1); 6 and half year gap to 2011, then 14 month gap; Mar 23rd, 2010 https://www.techdirt.com/user/cmdrkeene

dickeyrat: 3 TOTAL! ONE HALF PER YEAR! Aug 17th, 2017, Jun 23rd, 2011, and Jul 10th, 2010!!! https://www.techdirt.com/user/dickeyrat

Ron Currier: 7 (1) once 2017, 4 in 2016, SIX YEAR gap to 2010 https://www.techdirt.com/user/rcurrier

slowgreenturtle or (first two only) Tony / Tony Black: 9 (1) 6 year gap; Apr 10th, 2009 https://www.techdirt.com/user/slowgreenturtle

After three, they’re beyond "coincidence".

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

We all know you miss MyNameHere. I’m actually impressed he didn’t go on another binge with pseudonyms like he did with The Anti-Mike, horse with no name, Just Sayin’ and Whatever.

Who’s going to masturbate you now that Hamilton’s gone too? I guess if you really wanted you could try asking Richard Bennett, but be warned, he gets very triggered around dicks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bru

After three, they’re beyond "coincidence".

Or, you know, after three, they show a pattern of account usage on this site.

Did you go on to examine the writing style pre and post gap? To examine what these accounts were and are saying?

Without that, all you’re doing is showing that lots of people create accounts on here but rarely use them to post.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bru

Oh, it took me way too long and too many tries before I figured out a way to explain your idiocy about this in terms which would actually be understandable; I’ve been attempting it, off and on, for weeks.

(Without actually posting any of those attempts, mind you, because not posting when one doesn’t have anything to say is just plain good sense.)

Have you considered the possibility that outside events related to the sorts of stories which Techdirt covers may have drawn people who used to read (and occasionally comment) here, but had drifted away since that time, back to start reading (and occasionally commenting) again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Pro-tips for Techdirt Zombie Killers (TM):

#1: This gets latest, starting on ALL over a million comments:

https://www.techdirt.com/comments.php?start=0

#2: The lite mode lets see all comments, though apparently loses useful gravatar so can’t tell among the many ACs, ALSO, sets a cookie so you’re stuck in that mode:

https://www.techdirt.com/?_format=lite

#3 Most important: don’t take this site seriously! It’s just entertainment, like pro-wrestling.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s clearly given up on trying, he’s just copying and pasting the crap he’s spammed over other threads now. Without any attention paid to the reality of how threads are read and participated in, of course. You’d think that someone so self-righteously obsessed as he would have worked out how the site works by now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

They’re only inexplicable to you, there’s a number of logical explanations, and I’ve seen more than one of these accounts tell you exactly why the gap exists.

What’s not normal is obsessing over a site you hate, personally attacking people and coming up with wild conspiracy theories whenever you can’t argue with the articles themselves.

An Onymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Pro-tips for Techdirt Zombie Killers (TM):

Do you have anything useful to contribute to the conversation? Or are you so focussed on others’ posting behaviors that you can’t see your hypocrisy in refusing to create and use an account and bent on wasting everyone else’s time?

You don’t have to be a “fanboy” to see how pointless your posts are.

Hans says:

Attacking from the other end

Good timing! Just got off the phone with the Frontier Communications rep responding to my FCC complaint about their data in the FCC map site. (He’d never heard of the site.)

After a recent TD article on the FCC hyping its fine broadband map (current as of <b>2016!</b>) I checked my local area and found it claimed Frontier would provide me with 30 meg DSL, which is total bullshit. The best you can get in most of downtown Redmond WA is 3 meg DSL. (This sleepy little town is merely the home of Microsoft, why would I expect anything faster?) If you’re on the right street you can get Fios, but not me. I filed a complaint with the FCC about the map site, they forwarded it to Frontier.

Just kept pointing out the Frontier rep that the data come from them, and it’s used to inform Federal policy, so they could either correct the lie, or deliver me 30 meg service. Alternatively, the could make me go away by running a fiber under the nearest cross street, and down my 600 foot cul-de-sac so I can get Fios. He said he’d look into those and get back to me. Sure…

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