Monday, June 04, 2018

Senators challenge FCC rural broadband map accuracy

The Federal Communications Commission recently published a map of areas eligible for more than $4.5 billion in rural broadband subsidies, but a bipartisan group of senators says the map is flawed and wants more time to challenge it. In a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai, "the senators said the FCC map shows areas in their home states that are purportedly served by 4G LTE, when experience on the ground suggests otherwise," John Eggerton reports for Broadcasting & Cable.

The map identifies areas eligible for Mobility Fund Phase II money from the Connect America Fund over the next decade, which subsidizes telecommunications companies that expand into underserved rural areas. Most of the money has gone to telecommunications giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied heavily for such funding.

The FCC map's inaccuracy could be because, while these companies have created rural broadband networks, some have been constructed using slower or obsolete technology -- in effect, rural broadband that doesn't go as fast as broadband generally does.

The senators, led by Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said in the letter that leaving these underserved areas ineligible for funding will exacerbate the digital divide and deny fundamental economic and safety opportunities to rural communities, Eggerton reports.

The other senators signing the letter were Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Lankford (-Okla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Deborah Fischer (D-Neb.).

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