Better Mobility Mapping Bill Introduced

In the spirit of broadband bipartisanship, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) have introduced a bill to more accurately map where wireless broadband is available.

'[T]he FCC’s coverage maps, which are used to prioritize broadband expansion efforts, are inaccurate for New Hampshire, and many rural areas," said Hassan. "This bipartisan bill will improve the process by which Granite Staters can help identify errors in the FCC’s maps and help ensure that New Hampshire is appropriately represented in broadband expansion efforts."

“The FCC’s seriously-flawed mobile coverage map threatens to exclude many rural communities from much-needed wireless broadband support,” said Wicker. “The FCC should address Americans’ concerns and fix this inaccurate map."

Back in February, the FCC released a map showing areas it determined were eligible for billions of dollars in support of deploying 4G mobile broadband service from its Mobility Fund Phase II auction. The FCC is making $4.53 billion available over the next 10 years.

The Mobile Accuracy and Precision Broadband (MAP Broadband) Act would require the FCC to:

· "Extend the challenge process window by 90 days to ensure that challengers with limited resources and personnel have enough time to challenge the map;

· "Disclose the eligible handsets (i.e. phones) that each mobile wireless service provider has approved for challengers to use in the challenge process;

· "Provide monthly updates on the number of entities that the Commission has approved to participate in the challenge process as challengers, and the percentage of the total geographic areas initially determined to be ineligible for MF-II support that have been challenged under the challenge process; and

· "Provide annual updates on the expansion of mobile wireless service through the MF-II program."

Wicker, joined by Hassan, Moran, and others, in March wrote the FCC to express their concerns about the Mobility Fund Phase II map (the fund goes to subsidize wireless broadband too hard to reach, or justify paying to reach, areas, mostly rural).

“Chairman Pai believes the Mobility Fund Phase II reverse auction, which will allocate up to $4.53 billion over the next decade to extend 4G LTE mobile broadband to areas that lack coverage, is a critical component to bridging the digital divide," said an FCC spokesperson.

"We are actively working to ensure that the auction is a success and agree with many of the ideas set forth in this legislation. Indeed, we are already working on providing public disclosure of handset information and monthly updates on the challenge process.  We also will provide annual updates on post-auction buildout progress. In short, we value input from Members of Congress and look forward to continuing to work with them so that the Mobility Fund Phase II auction is a success.”

“I thank Senators Wicker, Hassan and Moran for their bipartisan leadership on the MAP Broadband Act,” said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry.  “Many competitive carriers serve rural or hard-to-reach areas of the country and rely on critical MF II support to serve their customers and expand their networks. The challenge process is a key part of the MF II program and the MAP Broadband Act will help ensure unserved and underserved areas, especially those in rural America, are not left behind in the digital world.”

“Extending the challenge process window until November 27, 2018 and requiring the FCC to publish monthly updates on the challenge process will provide carriers, as well as state, local, and Tribal governments, greater clarity and better opportunities to participate in the challenge process."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.