AT&T Takes a Wide Stance on Broadband Mapping

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In an op ed piece in Politico titled “A Game Plan to…Finally…Connect Every American to Broadband,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s first order of business is “to identify where broadband is unavailable with geographic precision.” According to ARS Technica, that same day, AT&T told the FCC it should not require additional details to verify the accuracy of propagation models used by ISPs to generate coverage maps.

Ten times since 2011, AT&T has taken the position that ISPs shouldn’t have to report street addresses or broadband speeds. Likewise, the carrier said the FCC shouldn’t collect data on broadband prices, service quality, or customer satisfaction. Market analysts took note that Stankey’s opinion piece in Politico belies years of filings in which the telecom giant fought the Commission’s attempts to require submission of more accurate and detailed broadband data mapping. 

“Now is the time for us to work together to ensure all American families have access to critical connectivity and the resources needed to meet the urgent challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Stankey. “If policymakers fail to act, today’s ‘homework gap’ will not only exacerbate the proverbial ‘generation gap,’ but we will have failed to bridge it.” 

According to ARS Technica, AT&T admitted last April to falsely reporting broadband offerings in nearly 3,600 census blocks spread across parts of 20 states. Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular were also found to have exaggerated their 4G coverage in official filings this past December, Inside Towers reported. Inaccuracies in reporting and data, according to the agency, ultimately hinder efforts to target broadband funding to areas most in need. The Commission has been working to improve its carrier collection data process; that work is on-going.

As AT&T calls for more funding and less regulation, consumer advocates are speaking up. Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Legislative Counsel Ernesto Falcon said, “Even when it is profitable to deliver fiber, the national ISPs have chosen not to do it in exchange for short-term profits. A massive infrastructure program, the kind that helped countries like South Korea become global leaders in broadband, aren’t just desperately needed in the United States, it is a requirement.”

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