The FCC proposed a $163,912 fine against an internet service provider for apparently overstating its subscriber numbers. The figure, levied against Barrier Communications Corporation d/b/a BarrierFree, is the maximum amount allowed by law.
In a revised March 2018 filing, and in September 2019 and March 2020 filings, the agency said BarrierFree apparently reported having vastly more broadband subscribers than there were housing units in the Suffolk County, New York census tracts where it reported providing service. The company also apparently failed to submit its March 2019 broadband deployment data Form 477 filing, provide accurate responses to Letters of Inquiry issued by the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau during the investigation, and fully respond to inquiries.
In proposing this fine, the Commission also explained that BarrierFree apparently failed to file any Form 477s before 2018, even though the company had been offering service since 2004, and “vastly overstated” its broadband deployment in its original March 2018 Form 477 filing. However, the Commission acknowledged that those apparent violations of Commission rules fell outside the one-year statute of limitations.
Complete, accurate, and timely broadband deployment and subscription data are essential to achieving the Commission’s mission to close the digital divide and bring broadband to those areas most in need. Broadband service providers are required to provide coverage and subscribership data to the Commission every six months on Form 477, a requirement that has been in place since 2000. The Commission says the broadband deployment and subscription data information must be accurate, complete and timely.
The information is also useful for other federal agencies, state governments, and consumers.
The company will be given a chance to respond to the allegations in the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture. The FCC will consider the ISP’s response before acting further to resolve the matter.