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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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 6:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhajicek (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 6:56am

    It would seem that if the maps were presumed accurate there's no need for subsidies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:33am

      Re:

      Corporations that think they are owed entitlements are the infamous welfare queens that reagan referred to but no one could find.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:20am

    I really don't understand this one at all

    It angers both sides as Republican senators and reps or rural states will want the map to be accurate and surely the telcos would like $5 billion in subsidies? I don't get it

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:44am

      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'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:23am

    availability

    ..and tell us again why "broadband availability" is an important, constitutional function of the Federal government

    which government agencies ensure the availability of kitchen utensils, shoes, carrots, video games, and door hinges ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:35am

      Re: availability

      Comparing staple items with common services relative to government regulation ... what could possibly be misconstrued?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re: availability

        the words "constitutional function of the federal government" are key here.

        the interweebs is NOT a constitutional function.
        Regulating commerce between the many states is the function of which the interweebs "may" fall under depending upon certain criteria.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 8:52am

          Re: Re: Re: availability

          Regulating interstate commerce is a constitutional function of the federal government.

          This really isn't difficult.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:34am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 2:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 2:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Madd the Sane (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 4:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: availability

              Well, technically we don't need electricity. Let's just remove all laws "restricting" the electric companies. I'm sure nothing could go wrong.

              Now water: well, we need that stuff to stay alive. Messing with that would have deadly consequences.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 26 Mar 2018 @ 6:08am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:57am

    RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bruce A."

    SEVEN AND HALF YEAR GAP! LAST SEEN IN 2010!

    https://www.techdirt.com/user/balbrecht

    HA, HA! -- OH, NO! NO ASTRO-TURFING ON THIS WEIRD SITE!

    In another topic, but ANY HUMANS HERE NEED WARNED.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:58am

      Re: RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bruce A."

      Board note: Reminder that teh internets is two-way communication.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 8:05am

      Re: RED ALERT! RECORD-BREAKING ZOMBIE! "BAlbrecht or Bruce A."

      You don't know how accounts work.

      Oh well, more spam to flag.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:19am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:33am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:11am

          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".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:34am

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

            You are incoherent.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:35am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Ninja (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:36am

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

            You have way too much time in your hands. Go engage in something productive.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 12:20pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 7:59am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 8:31am

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

      Techdirt provides news on areas I am interested in. It is you I don't take seriously.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:21am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          He's busy "not taking this site seriously" by endlessly trawling through comments from years ago to prove an imaginary conspiracy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 9:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The best thing about it is that if he is right about there being no real commenters here, then he's literally talking to himself. That's his best case scenario. If he's wrong, he looks like a lunatic. If he's right, nobody's reading any of what he's saying in the first place.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:04am

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

            If you're not interested in "account" (one of 7 now) having inexplicable 6-7 year gaps, then you're not a "normal" person.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:35am

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

              This may surprise you, but many people have interests other than spamming every single article with comments.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 25 Mar 2018 @ 4:39am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:03am

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

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

        It's not fanboys whom I address: it's ordinary reasonable people who by chance wander into this zombie-infested cesspit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:36am

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

          Yes, ordinary reasonable people will definitely listen to the ramblings of a spammer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          An Onymous Coward (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:21am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 10:27am

    and, of course, those same senators deny doing anything that aided FCC and Pai in particular! what a bunch of twats!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:04am

    This is a product of the same FCC, the head of which basically told europe to back off 5G because the US has more and better experience innovating and deploying network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TRX, 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:25am

    The broadband maps are still probably more accurate than the "coverage" maps put forth by the cellular providers. If you're not in a town or near a major highway, you're going to find cellular service has huge voids in Flyoverland, no matter what the colored maps say.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hans, 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:46am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 12:53pm

    I went to the map and checked an address. It said Charter and ATT DSL were available. I then checked their websites for the same address, and nope, not available.

    Funny that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wolfie0827 (profile), 25 Mar 2018 @ 8:36am

      Re:

      To bad we couldn't handle the billing from our end the same way. "I pay bills in these areas (whole country covered.)" then when bill is do "Sorry but I can't pay to that address."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2018 @ 1:43pm

    If any group of idiots would know what a bad joke is it is this group of morons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew, 25 Mar 2018 @ 3:36pm

    This story never changes.

    They probably are still giving these companies incentive monies for linking up these areas.

    They've been handed this for so long, if they were actually doing it, the areas could have been linked up ten times by now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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