King, Colleagues Express Concerns with FCC’s Mobility Fund Coverage Map

SANFORD, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai expressing serious concerns about the agency’s recently released Mobility Fund Phase II (MF II) map. The purpose of this fund is to allocate $4.53 billion over the next 10 years to preserve and expand 4G LTE mobile coverage in rural areas.

“We understand that the map was developed based on a preliminary assessment from a one-time data collection effort that will be verified through a challenge process,” the senators wrote in their letter. “However, we are concerned that the map misrepresents the existence of 4G LTE services in many areas.  As a result, the Commission’s proposed challenge process may not be robust enough to adequately address the shortcomings in the Commission’s assessment of geographic areas in need of support for this proceeding.  

“Having consistently traveled throughout rural areas in our states, it appears that there are significant gaps in mobile coverage beyond what is represented by the map’s initial presentation of ‘eligible areas.’ To accurately target support to communities truly in need of broadband service, it is critical we collect standardized and accurate data.”

Senator King is a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, and has been a strong proponent of broadband infrastructure initiatives. Connectivity in rural regions is a key part of Senator King’s economic agenda to help grow Maine’s rural economy, support innovation and create jobs. During his time in office, Senator King has supported the modernization of federal broadband programs, including the FCC’s E-rate program, which supports school and library internet access. Last August, he hosted a listening tour with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to discuss the importance of rural broadband for rural education, healthcare, and economic growth.

In addition to King, the letter was signed by Roger Wicker (R- Miss.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

The full text of the letter can be found HERE, or read below.

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Dear Chairman Pai:

We write this letter to express our serious concerns that the map released by the Federal Communications Commission last week showing presumptive eligible areas for Mobility Fund Phase II (MF II) support may not be an accurate depiction of areas in need of universal service support.  We understand that the map was developed based on a preliminary assessment from a one-time data collection effort that will be verified through a challenge process. However, we are concerned that the map misrepresents the existence of 4G LTE services in many areas.  As a result, the Commission’s proposed challenge process may not be robust enough to adequately address the shortcomings in the Commission’s assessment of geographic areas in need of support for this proceeding.   

MF II is intended to provide $4.53 billion in support over 10 years to preserve and expand mobile coverage to rural areas. These resources will be made available to provide 4G LTE service where it is not economically viable today to deploy services through private sector means alone.  Having consistently traveled throughout rural areas in our states, it appears that there are significant gaps in mobile coverage beyond what is represented by the map’s initial presentation of “eligible areas.” To accurately target support to communities truly in need of broadband service, it is critical we collect standardized and accurate data.

For too long, millions of rural Americans have been living without consistent and reliable mobile broadband service.  Identifying rural areas as not eligible for support will exacerbate the digital divide, denying fundamental economic opportunities to these rural communities.  We strongly urge the Commission to accurately and consistently identify areas that do not have unsubsidized 4G LTE service and provide Congress with an update on final eligible areas before auctioning $4.53 billion of MF II support.