There appears to be bipartisan consensus that the FCC doesn’t know its maps from a hole in the ground.
That would be the broadband coverage maps the FCC is planning to use to decide where to put more than $4.5 billion in rural broadband subsidies.
The FCC earlier this year put out the broadband maps of areas eligible for Mobility Fund Phase II money over the next decade as part of its move to redirect wireless carrier subsidies from where private capital was already at work to, as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put it at the time, “something far more useful: bringing 4G LTE service to rural Americans who don’t have it today.
But legislators are asking questions…
That did not seem to assuage a restless group of legislators from rural states.
Sen. Jon Tester was the most vocal in his criticisms of the maps. “They stink,” he said.
Tester said he was not sure that the challenge process to take care of the problem was going to work. He asked whether if he gets a text to send on one side of his house, but not the other, does that constitute coverage?
“I can send texts based on where the sun is in the sky, basically. And I can get voice calls…sometime, depending on which direction I’m driving the tractor,” he said, calling out Frontier for getting subsidy money but not spending it.
Tester said they still don’t have 1G where he lives, much less five.
Senator Klobuchar (and others) chimed in too…
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said she would take a “Minnesota nice” way of registering the same criticism as Tester.
Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, a Republican from the equally rural state of South Dakota, summed it up: “I think what you guys are hearing is bipartisan concern about the maps and making sure that we are accurate and not overbuilding [or underbuilding, as Tester seemed more worried about] and that those areas that truly need the help are getting it.”