FCC to investigate whether major wireless carriers submitted false coverage data

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Friday that it will investigate whether major wireless service providers have submitted false data to the agency about their coverage areas, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

The FCC said it would be temporarily suspending the rollout of a $4.53 billion program to boost wireless internet in underserved areas while the investigation is underway.

“In order to reach those areas, it’s critical that we know where access is and where it is not,” Pai said in a statement. “A preliminary review of speed test data submitted through the challenge process suggested significant violations of the Commission’s rules. That’s why I’ve ordered an investigation into these matters. We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed.”

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Under the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II program, major wireless providers were required to submit up-to-date data on their wireless broadband coverage reach to determine which areas of the country are most in need of government support.

The program is part of an effort to expand internet access to rural areas and other underserved communities.

The agency said it would be probing whether “one or more major carriers” submitted false data.

Microsoft released a study this week estimating that nearly 163 million people do not use broadband speed internet, a significantly larger number than the FCC’s estimate that 24.7 million people lack access to broadband.