December 04, 2019

Manchin: FCC Admits Coverage Maps Are Wrong

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today released the following statement on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) Coverage Map Investigation Report. The investigation was launched last December after concerns were raised during a preliminary review of the data submitted during the MFII Challenge Process. Today’s report confirms the initial findings that the MFII coverage maps were fundamentally flawed. Senator Manchin was the only member of Congress to formally participate in the MF-II Challenge Process and proved the FCC’s map, created by using carrier provided data, grossly overstated mobile broadband coverage across West Virginia. The program was put on hold last year following reports that one or more major carriers submitted incorrect coverage maps.

“This report confirms what I have been saying all along – these maps are wrong. I commend my fellow West Virginians for investing their time and energy into this process, and I hope that FCC appreciates the critical role they played in bringing these problems to light through the Challenge Process,” said Senator Manchin. “I look forward to learning more about this newly announced 5G Fund and hope that it will build on the successes of the MFII process and not throw the baby out with the bath water. At a minimum, it should include a process to confirm the accuracy of the eligibility maps before billions of dollars go out the door, and it should include a terrain factor to ensure that the hardest to serve places can compete for this limited funding. The promise of 5G sounds great, but there are many places in West Virginia that do not have any service at all. We cannot forget about them.”  

The FCC report states, “Through the investigation, staff discovered that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile likely overstated each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground performance in many instances. Only 62.3% of staff drive tests achieved at least the minimum download speed predicted by the coverage maps—with U.S. Cellular achieving that speed in only 45.0% of such tests, T-Mobile in 63.2% of tests, and Verizon in 64.3% of tests.”

In addition to Senator Manchin, 11 other West Virginia entities formally participated in the MFII Challenge Process, including: Lewis County, the Kanawha County Commission, the Wyoming County Commission, Monroe County, Summers County, the Region I Planning and Development Council, the Hampshire County Commission, the Tyler County Development Authority, the Morgan County Commission, the Preston County Economic Development Authority, and the West Virginia Office of GIS Coordination.

Timeline of Senator Manchin’s Efforts on the Mobility Fund Process: 

July 23, 2015: Senator Manchin met with Chairman Wheeler to discuss the important role the Mobility Fund can play in supporting broadband investments in hard to serve areas like West Virginia.

September 22, 2015: Senator Manchin sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to target Mobility Fund to states with the lowest rates of advanced wireless penetration and inviting him to visit West Virginia to see firsthand the real challenges that remain.

February 29, 2016: Senator Manchin met with Chairman Wheeler to highlight the importance of working with local, state, federal, and private entities to collect accurate data on mobile broadband coverage to ensure federal resources are invested in the places that truly need it.

March 1, 2016: Senator Manchin, along with Senator Gardner and 9 of their colleagues, sent a letter to Chairman Wheeler expressing their frustration with the inability of the FCC to accurately measure mobile broadband coverage available to consumers, especially in rural areas, and urging the FCC to partner with industry and other stakeholders to solve this problem.

July 11, 2016: Senator Manchin, along with Senator Roger Wicker and 24 of their colleagues, sent a letter to Chairman Wheeler urging the FCC to move on the Mobility Fund. 

October 11, 2016: Senator Manchin hosted Chairman Wheeler in West Virginia to meet with key stakeholders from West Virginia’s communication technology sector and talk about the importance of the Mobility Fund.

January 25, 2017: Senator Manchin and FCC Commissioner Clyburn published an op-ed on the importance of the Mobility Fund in a 21st century digital economy. 

February 2, 2017: Senator Manchin, along with Senator Wicker, and 28 of their colleagues, sent a letter to Chairman Pai again urging the FCC to move on the Mobility Fund.

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

February 23, 2017: Senator Manchin praised the FCC, after it voted unanimously to move forward with the Mobility Fund, which prioritizes mobile broadband deployment in rural and underserved communities and protects small internet service providers from burdensome regulations.

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. 

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 II.

March 29, 2018: Senator Manchin sent 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 hosted 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.

December 7, 2018: The FCC suspends its rollout of Mobility Fund Phase II, and Chairman Pai announces that the agency was launching an investigation into whether one or more major carriers submitted incorrect coverage data.

December 19, 2018: Senator Manchin receives a firm commitment from Chairman Ajit Pai that the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II program would be moving forward as quickly as possible with a provision that will ensure this critical $4.5 billion for mobile broadband funding is targeted toward areas like West Virginia that face higher deployment costs due to challenging topography.