Major US telecoms carrier may have lied about 4G coverage, FCC finds
Preliminary testing carried out by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has found that at least one major broadband carrier is guilty of having lied about its 4G coverage.
Although the FCC did not name the carrier found guilty, its testing was sparked by a complaint filed against Verizon, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the US.
In August, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) – which represents small rural wireless carriers – filed a complaint against Verizon, claiming that the telecommunications company had “grossly overstated” its 4G coverage in government filings. Verizon and other companies had been requested to file maps and data laying out their 4G coverage in 2017. According to the RWA, Verizon’s filings were inaccurate and could block smaller companies from gaining support from the $4.5bn (£3.6bn) public Mobility Fund to subsidise the expansion of rural wireless coverage over the next decade.
The RWA had submitted speed test results to the FCC, which demonstrated that Verizon had not provided 4G in the areas that the company had claimed to cover. The RWA alleges that while Verizon claims to cover almost all of the Oklahoma Pandale, 89 per cent of Verizon speed tests from the region were before 5MBps download speed or did not register 4G at all. The company “filed a sham coverage map as a means of interfering with the ability of rural carriers to continue to receive universal service support in rural areas,” the RWA claimed in its filing.
Verizon denied any wrongdoing, stating that its map was accurate and based on “sophisticated” propagation modelling and claiming that the RWA test results could be influenced by speed measurement errors.
Following a preliminary review of wireless speeds, the FCC has begun an investigation into the accuracy of the 4G coverage information filed by the companies in order to determine whether “one or more major carriers violated the Mobility Fund […] reverse auction’s mapping rules and submitted incorrect coverage maps.”
“A preliminary review of speed-test data submitted through the challenge process suggested significant violations of the Commission’s rules,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “That’s why I’ve ordered an investigation into these matters. We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed.”
FCC commissioner Brendan Carr supported the opening of the investigation, saying: “It is deeply concerning that FCC staff’s preliminary analysis of the challenge data shows that one or more major carriers potentially violated the Commission’s […] mapping rules and submitted incorrect maps.”
The next phase of the funding allocation process has been suspended until the investigation has been completed.