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FCC Report: Mobile Service Maps Often Overstate Coverage

During an investigation of several prominent mobile carriers, the FCC has found that three major companies regularly appear to overstate the amount of coverage that their service provides in maps.

(TNS) — Think you’ve got coverage? You might want to think twice.

Mobile phone service providers appear to overstate coverage in their maps 40% of the time, according to a new report from the Federal Communications Commission released Wednesday.

During an investigation of mobile carriers — including AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile and Verizon — the FCC found that three major companies appeared to overstate the amount of coverage their services provide in maps.

Because the government agency suspected a number of mobile service providers had inaccurate data regarding coverage service, the FCC launched an investigation.

“The staff review of challenger data, in combination with the record evidence focusing on specific areas in which coverage appeared to be overstated, suggested, among other things, that some providers had reported inaccurate coverage data to the Commission,” the report said.

When conducting tests, the FCC found many carriers did not meet the minimum service represented in coverage maps — meaning the maps would not accurately represent the service that was depicted.

“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,” the report said.

U.S. Cellular sent a statement from Grant Spellmeyer, Vice President of Federal Affairs and Public Policy to the Daily News in response to the report.

“We have said all along that the parameters adopted by the Commission for the submittal of broadband coverage maps would result in overstated coverage, so the conclusions in the staff report come as no surprise to us. U.S. Cellular faithfully implemented the FCC’s requirements in the development of the coverage maps that it submitted, but we recognize, as does the FCC, that better and more accurate maps are necessary for dispersing finite government funding for broadband deployment,” Spellmeyer wrote.

T-Mobile, in a statement to The News, said “We stand behind our network coverage and all of our maps, but agree with the FCC that there is an opportunity to improve their procedures for collection of broadband coverage data for the Mobility Fund maps.”

“We look forward to working with them and Congress to revamp the process,” the T-Mobile statement said.

Verizon sent the following statement to The News in response to the report:

"We provide our customers with the broadest and most reliable wireless network services in the nation. Verizon understands the importance of accurate broadband maps and has worked with the FCC toward that goal. Our company is not responsible for the agency’s Mobility Fund mapping problem. The industry told the FCC more than two years ago how to build a coverage map that better aligns with real-world experiences. For policy reasons, the FCC rejected the industry’s consensus proposal in favor of a more expansive definition of coverage. Verizon simply followed the FCC’s instructions.

Verizon added, “We intend to review the staff recommendations, and will work with the FCC’s staff on ways to improve the mapping processes going forward.”

Staff encouraged the FCC to collect more data from the mobile service providers to “ensure the integrity and reliability of submitted maps,” according to the report.

©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.