NTCA Warns of “Broadband Overreach”

Randy Sukow

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NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association has added its voice to the list of broadband industry organizations finding flaws in the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process. In particular, it claims that the phenomenon of “broadband overreach,” the over reporting of actual broadband coverage by certain providers, is already having potentially adverse effects on Commission decision making. In recent contacts with FCC officials, it proposed steps the Commission could take to improve the quality of BDC data.

“The Commission has already made or is in the process of making significant policy and funding decisions with long-lasting implications based upon questionable data that the current rules still permit to be filed,” NTCA said in a ex parte letter to the FCC. “Certain modifications to the BDC process might require further Commission action.”

As most consumers know, especially those living in rural areas, there often is a difference between advertised broadband coverage areas and actual coverage areas that can be confirmed by technical measurements. NTCA claims that the current BDC data gathering system focuses more on marketing claims with no technical standards available for confirming those claims. Even if challengers can demonstrate broadband overreach, there are no significant consequences for misstating actual coverage.

NTCA suggests several actions in a presentation to the commissioners. Among them, it calls on the FCC to pay particular attention to rural areas where there are multiple challenges to the data that carriers have reported, may be a red flag indicating that an investigation is necessary. It also asked the FCC to broaden its “challenge codes” to indicate BDC data for given areas is based on advertised speed, online speed test results or other technical methods.

The Commission also could refine its procedures to include technical standards for data reports replacing advertised speeds and creating more transparency in the challenge process for challengers to know more about the quality of the data. Finally, “lack meaningful penalties emboldens overreach,” NTCA said.

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