Several leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee urged the FCC to distribute the $9 billion 5G Fund based on accurate data, in other words, better broadband availability maps. They want to ensure support is appropriately awarded.
Signing a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, (R-MS), Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman John Thune, (R-SD), along with Roy Blunt, (R-MO), Jerry Moran, (R-KS), Ron Johnson, (R-WI), Deb Fischer, (R-NE), Todd Young, (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN).
The letter concerns the 5G Fund that would replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) reverse auction. That, in turn, would have provided support for mobile broadband service in underserved areas. Wicker raised concerns about that program, noting that inaccurate broadband maps could have misallocated funding instead of targeting the rural areas most in need of broadband.
“In 2018, a bipartisan group of Senators wrote to you with serious concerns about the reliability of the coverage maps that the FCC intended to use to determine eligible areas in the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF II),” they write. “At the time, the maps that the Commission released appeared to misrepresent the existence of unsubsidized 4G LTE coverage and overstate the areas that were covered by existing mobile service.” They support the FCC’s decision not to move forward with MF II using maps that could misallocate funding and welcome the move to the new 5G Fund.
They still have concerns about underlying coverage data used to determine funding eligibility. “In your announcement of this new fund, you also addressed the continued need for more precise information about the true state of wireless coverage in rural America. Given these remaining challenges, we urge the Commission to focus on ensuring that accurate data is available—including updates to the collection of coverage data as outlined in our bipartisan, bicameral Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act—so that support can be appropriately awarded based on reliable coverage maps,” state the lawmakers.