The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) continues its calls to the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the 4G LTE coverage claims of T-Mobile US, Inc. (“T-Mobile”). RWA’s members previously submitted evidence to the FCC illustrating how T-Mobile vastly overstated its coverage in parts of rural America. A recent independent study conducted by the Vermont Department of Public Service (“Vermont DPS”) confirms these findings, noting that: “many of the areas purportedly served [in Vermont] in fact very likely lacked service.” In addition to overstating coverage and failing to serve its own consumers in rural areas, T-Mobile’s actions could deprive other carriers from federal funding to provide broadband in rural America. T-Mobile’s actions cast doubt on the unsubstantiated promises of rural coverage the company is making to justify their anti-competitive merger with Sprint. The company’s recent track record confirms that rural Americans will be harmed if the merger is approved.
In its December 2018 filing with the FCC, RWA stated, based on independent tests by its members, that T-Mobile exaggerated its 4G/LTE coverage in numerous parts of the country. This finding was based on 2.3 million speed tests RWA members conducted in areas T-Mobile said it covered. According to these members, T-Mobile’s network failed more than 95 percent of these tests, either providing speeds of less than 5Mbps download or providing no 4G LTE coverage at all.
In January 2019, the Vermont DPS released a study based on its own drive testing, conducted over 6,000 miles of highways and back roads in the state. Vermont conducted the study because, based on coverage maps submitted by T-Mobile and others to the FCC, only a small amount of territory in the state was eligible for federal funding to carriers seeking to provide service in rural areas in Vermont.
The full results of the extensive drive tests can be found here. Vermont DPS also produced an Interactive Map showing actual wireless coverage in Vermont, and broken down by individual carriers (e.g., T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.). Among other findings, the Vermont DPS recorded that T-Mobile had either no service, or average download speeds of less than .256 Mbps in 62 percent of the blocks it tested. According to the Vermont DPS, the data gathered could “render significantly more territory in Vermont eligible for this grant process.”
On February 13, 2019, RWA’s General Counsel, Carri Bennet, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology regarding T-Mobile’s exaggerated 4G rural broadband deployment. A link to a recorded video of the full hearing can be found here. During the hearing, Committee members noted that T-Mobile had poor coverage in their districts. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) criticized T-Mobile for claiming robust cell coverage in rural Vermont when in fact the actual coverage was spotty or non-existent. Rep. Welch specifically cited the Vermont DPS report. Holding up the over-stated coverage maps T-Mobile uses to sell its service, Rep. Welch stated they are “bogus” and “phony” and “don’t correspond” with the reality on the ground.
 “Mobile Wireless in Vermont,” Vermont Department of Public Service, p. 1 (Jan. 15, 2019), available at https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Connectivity/BroadbandReports/2019/Mobile%20Wireless%20Report.pdf.
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 1.