Responding to numerous parties’ complaints regarding the coverage maps submitted during the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) challenge process, and following a one-year investigation, Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) staff have released a report revealing flawed 4G LTE coverage data submitted by various providers. Among other things, the report recognizes 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,” with only 62.3% of staff drive tests in these carriers’ reported coverage zones achieving the appropriate download speed. The report details FCC staff’s investigation and also provides a host of recommendations moving forward, including terminating the MF-II challenge process, auditing various coverage filings, and taking additional steps to ensure that public coverage data is accurate moving forward, particularly with respect to the Commission’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection rulemaking.
In conjunction with the FCC’s release of this report, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a plan to scrap the $4.53 billion MF-II program in its entirety and replace it with a $9 billion 5G Fund for rural America. According to Pai’s announcement, the planned 5G Fund would aim to bring 5G mobile wireless services to hard-to-serve areas via a reverse auction, and would include $1 billion set aside for precision agriculture.