Miss. Senator Raises Questions About ‘Inadequate’ FCC Coverage Maps for Rural Broadband Funding

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today led a hearing to receive testimony on how to advance broadband deployment in the United States.

In his opening statement, Wicker noted the importance of collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists to aid broadband investment decisions. The Senate recently passed Wicker’s “Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017” that would address some of these data collection concerns by requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve its data collection methods. Last week, Wicker led a group of Senators calling on the FCC to fix the apparent gaps in its Mobility Fund Phase II maps that may be caused by bad data. Without accurate data that reflects on-the-ground realities, many consumers may be left without a reliable internet connection and federal resources could be misdirected or otherwise wasted.

In his questions to the panel, Wicker asked the witnesses to assess U.S. progress toward the roll-out of 5G as compared to other competing countries, like China and Japan.

Brad Gillen, Executive Vice President of CTIA – The Wireless Association, indicated that a slowdown in broadband rollout could put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to its overseas rivals.

“We led the world in 4G wireless, and that led to things like the app economy developing here [in the U.S.],” Gillen said. “So when you talk about 5G and all the exciting things happening in health care and transportation, we want that innovation to happen here first, and if we aren’t first, then we risk innovation going overseas.”

Steve Berry, Chief Executive Officer for the Competitive Carriers Association, agreed with Gillen’s assessment. He stated his concern that rural America be considered in any talks to advance 5G broadband.

“The faster we get there, the faster we can have the benefits in rural America and urban/suburban America of the 5G world,” Berry said. “I don’t think we want to leave half the United States or half the nation behind this economic opportunity for the new mobile world.”

Wicker also asked Berry to elaborate on his testimony regarding the FCC’s inadequate data collection procedures for mapping broadband coverage.

“The simple answer to the question is, ‘Garbage in, garbage out,’” Berry said. “I had great hopes that this next round of data requests would produce better quality service maps. What we actually got though was very clear the FCC requested the wrong perimeters.”

Other witnesses at today’s hearing included:

  • The Honorable Gary Resnick, Mayor, City of Wilton Manors, Fla.
  • Mr. Mike Romano, Senior Vice President for Policy, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association
  • Mr. Robert DeBroux, Director of Federal Affairs and Public Policy, TDS Telecom

Senator Roger Wicker Press Release