Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Comcast Gave False Map Data to FCC

Jon Brodkin (via Hacker News):

When Hillier looked up his address on the FCC map, it showed Comcast claims to offer 1.2Gbps download and 35Mbps upload speeds at the house. In reality, he makes do with CenturyLink Internet that tops out at 60Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads.

Hillier—an engineer with 30 years experience who previously worked for several telecom firms, including Comcast and Charter—submitted a challenge to the FCC in mid-November, telling the commission that Comcast doesn’t serve his address. Correcting false data is important because the map will be used to determine which parts of the US are eligible for $42.45 billion in federal grants to expand broadband availability.

Program rules require ISPs to respond to challenges within 60 days, and Comcast’s first response to Hillier’s insisted that it actually does serve the house, which is on a street called Quartz Loop.

David Major:

We demonstrate a new approach to building broadband coverage maps: automated large-scale queries to the public availability checking tools offered by major internet service providers. We reverse engineer the coverage tools for nine major ISPs in the U.S., test over 19 million residential street addresses across nine states for service, and compare the results to the FCC’s maps.

Our results demonstrate that the FCC’s coverage data significantly overstates the availability of each ISP’s service, access to any broadband, connection speeds available to consumers, and competition in broadband markets. We also find that the FCC’s data disproportionately overstates coverage in rural and minority communities.


Update (2023-02-23): Jon Brodkin (via Hacker News):

Comcast has fessed up to another mistake on the national broadband map after previously insisting that false data it gave the Federal Communications Commission was actually correct.


The FCC says it can conduct audits of provider-reported availability information and confirmed to Ars last week that it has “multiple ongoing” investigations into data submitted by ISPs. One of those investigations began after our report about an Ohio ISP called Jefferson County Cable, which admitted to lying to the FCC about the size of its network in an attempt to block funding to rivals. While the FCC confirmed an investigation into Jefferson County Cable, it hasn’t yet confirmed an investigation into Comcast.

A spokesperson for FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told Ars that Comcast’s correction of the Fort Collins mistake shows the challenge process is working as intended.

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