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Starlink’s and Comcast’s questionable coverage maps cause conflict

The news: ISPs submitting inaccurate coverage information to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are compromising which parts of the US can get access to a $42.5 billion broadband fund, per Ars Technica.

Can’t trust carriers’ maps: Wireless providers overstating their coverage continue to complicate efforts to identify underserved communities. 

  • Starlink, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Comcast, have all provided false availability data to the federal government’s broadband fund map. 
  • In SpaceX’s Starlink case, it claims to serve the whole US on the FCC’s map, but its own maps reveal a waitlist in huge portions of the country.
  • The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) told Ars Technica that “the FCC's current maps are based on old data from June 2022."
  • “They’re reporting hypothetical service, not actual service,” said Christopher Ali, a telecommunications professor at Pennsylvania State University.

The problem: Inaccuracies in the FCC map will block competitors from obtaining subsidies and competing in certain markets because maps show they are already being served. Those areas could lose out on billions in federal funds as a result.

  • Customers from Harrietta, Michigan; West Chester, Pennsylvania; and Woodinville, Washington, proved they don’t get Starlink service, even though the company claims to serve the area on the FCC map.
  • Verizon was called out for similar inaccuracies and said it’s possible that “services were available at the reporting date but no longer accessible to new customers.”

Key takeaway: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration plans to issue grants by June 30, but given the questionable nature of carriers’ claims, this deadline should be moved until a trusted body can provide an accurate and updated coverage picture.