Digital divide: US senators warn FCC of flaws in $4.5bn broadband plan

1 Jun 2018

Image: maxbelchenko/Shutterstock

Map proposing 4G services for Americans in under-served rural areas is not accurate, US senators warn.

A $4.5bn plan to use 4G technologies to provide coverage for Americans in rural broadband black spots across the United States may be flawed.

Like most countries in the world, the US has its own set of unique challenges when it comes to bringing all citizens into the digital age.

Future Human

And, like most countries, the US is scrambling to come up with a plan to resolve the issue.

Under the Mobile Fund Phase II (MFII) plans, some $4.5bn will be directed to use 4G to better serve rural areas.

However, according to Telecoms Tech News, 30 senators led by Roger Wicker and Maggie Hassan have pointed out that the map may be flawed.

Crossing the divide

“This map is intended to reflect areas that lack unsubsidised mobile 4G LTE service, but it unfortunately falls short of an accurate depiction of areas in need of universal service support,” they wrote in a letter signed by all 30 senators and addressed to FCC chair Ajit Pai.

“Therefore, the FCC’s challenge process will play an outsized role in determining appropriate eligible areas for MFII support. Communities in our states that are not initially eligible or successfully challenged will be ineligible for up to $4.53bn in support over the next 10 years, exacerbating the digital divide and denying fundamental economic and safety opportunities to rural communities.”

They have requested that the challenge window – which currently has less than 100 days to go – be extended by a further 90 days to allow them to provide information to correct flaws in the map.

“The MFII process presents an opportunity to take significant steps to address the digital divide and preserve and expand mobile broadband in rural areas.

“We strongly urge you to ensure this opportunity is available to all communities deserving support through compiling accurate data that reflects our constituents’ experience, including providing additional time for challengers to submit data, conducting additional information sessions for state, local, and tribal governments, and providing Congress with an update on final eligible areas before conducting an auction of support.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years