May 29, 2019

Manchin Discouraged By FCC Report On Rural Broadband Coverage

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is discouraged by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report released today which claims that the digital divide has narrowed substantially and that advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.  In part, the report claims that 95.1 percent of West Virginians have mobile LTE coverage and 90.6 percent of rural West Virginians have mobile LTE coverage. Read the full report here.

“As a West Virginian who has been to every county, almost every town and driven on almost every road, I know that the findings in this report do not accurately reflect what West Virginians are actually experiencing when it comes to internet coverage. That’s exactly why I have called on the FCC to utilize public feedback to improve broadband coverage data by introducing the Map Improvement Act of 2019 and why I am proud to be the only elected official to have officially challenged a federal broadband coverage map. It’s impossible to fill gaps, if you don’t know they are there. That’s why accurate coverage maps are the first and most important step when determining who needs coverage. The FCC should go back to the drawing board and make sure their data is accurate before ignoring problems that are most certainly there. I stand ready to work with the FCC to ensure we address the issue of inaccurate coverage data, move forward on critical programs like the Mobility Fund Phase II and are truly on the right path toward narrowing the digital divide in West Virginia,” said Senator Manchin.

According to the report:

  • 97.9% of West Virginians have access to fixed or mobile LTE coverage
  • 81.9% of West Virginians have access to fixed and mobile LTE coverage
  • 95.1% of West Virginians have mobile LTE coverage
  • 90.6% of rural West Virginians have mobile LTE coverage
  • 8 West Virginia counties have 100% mobile LTE coverage 7 West Virginia counties have 100% fixed coverage

(fixed coverage is considered to be speeds of at least 25mbps/3mbps, mobile coverage is considered to be speeds of at least 5mbps/1mbps)

Read a full list of Senator Manchin’s efforts to address inaccurate broadband coverage maps and data below:

October 11, 2016: In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband coverage maps indicated that 99.9% of Americans had wireless coverage.  In order to prove these figures were inaccurate, Senator Manchin brings then-Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to West Virginia to see first-hand why his agency was wrong.

February 16, 2017: Senator Manchin and Senator Wicker meet with Chairman Pai to discuss the importance of a robust, reliable, and standardized data collection and challenge process.

April 12, 2017: Senator Manchin and Senator Wicker sent a letter to Chairman Pai applauding the creation of the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force and urging the FCC to ensure that accurate maps guide the upcoming auctions. 

May 11, 2017: Senator Manchin and Senator Wicker introduce the Rural Wireless Access Act which would require the FCC to collect wireless broadband coverage data that is valid, consistent, and robust.

August 3, 2017: FCC votes on Mobility Fund Order to begin the process of providing $4.53 billion over ten years to expand mobile broadband deployment.

February 27, 2018: FCC releases their Initial Eligible Areas Map for Mobility Fund Phase II.

March 29, 2018: Senator Manchin sends a letter to Chairman Pai encouraging the FCC to work with state and local governments on the Mobility Fund II Map Challenge Process to ensure the map reflects the actual real world experience of West Virginians.

April 10, 2018: The FCC responds to Senator Manchin’s request that they provide support to state and local governments by releasing a new map that shows areas where challenges have the best likelihood of success.

May 10, 2018:  Senator Manchin requests a waiver from the FCC to participate in the Mobility Fund Phase II Challenge Process and prove their coverage map was inaccurate

May 18, 2018: Senator Manchin hosts the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Associate Chief of Competition and Infrastructure Policy Division, Michael Janson for an FCC Mobility Fund II Challenge Process presentation in West Virginia to help stakeholders better understand the challenge process and the opportunities they have to improve the accuracy of the eligibility map.

May 25, 2018: Senator Manchin receives waiver from the FCC to participate in the Mobility Fund Phase II Challenge Process.

June 5, 2018: Senator Manchin hosts a Facebook Live with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Aaron Cox, Chairman of the Hampshire County Broadband Initiative Council to discuss broadband access in West Virginia, Mobility Fund II and how West Virginians could challenge the FCC’s map.

November 26, 2018:  Senator Manchin becomes only Member of Congress to formally challenge a federal broadband coverage map when he submitted a successful challenge to the Mobility Fund Phase II Initial Eligible Areas Map.

February 12, 2019: Senator Manchin announces that West Virginia will be included in the new National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiative that will help make sure the national broadband availability map is accurate.  This came after he led the effort to secure the language the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 that authorized this pilot program.

February 14, 2019: Senator Manchin leads a bipartisan letter to the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to create a public feedback mechanism to allow consumers and states an opportunity to participate in the mapping process.

May 15, 2019:  Senator Manchin introduces the Map Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 1485).