WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today released the following statement in response to the announcement from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai that his agency would be launching an investigation into allegations that one or more major carriers had violated the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) reverse auction’s mapping rules and submitted incorrect coverage maps:
“Today’s announcement from the FCC confirms what we have known all along - the FCC’s mapping procedure is fatally flawed. I thank Chairman Pai for his work to launch this investigation and will be tracking the results closely. It is important for us to get this coverage map right so we can accurately target federal support to the communities in need of broadband service.”
The FCC MF-II eligibility maps will be used to determine how up to $4.53 billion in support for rural wireless broadband expansion will be allocated over the next 10 years. The FCC created a challenge process for stakeholders to challenge the presumptive eligibility maps, which purportedly show areas with existing 4G LTE service coverage that would be ineligible for further federal support.
Wicker has repeatedly raised concerns with the map and challenge process, most recently exploring an option to use the year-end government funding bill to force the FCC to delay the challenge process and take stock of the accuracy of its broadband data. The senator is concerned that a flawed map could “crack open a digital divide” in communities that are poorly served by wireless broadband coverage.
In May, Wicker introduced legislation that would have required the FCC to extend the challenge process by 90 days. He also led a bipartisan group of 30 senators to call upon the FCC to extend the challenge process and make other changes to the Mobility Fund program. The FCC agreed to extend the challenge process, which officially concluded on November 26, 2018.