Washington, D.C. – The Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (RWA) has filed an Application for Review of the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force’s Mobility Fund Phase II (MFII) Challenge Process Public Notice as well as a request to extend the end of the MFII Challenge Process.
Of significant concern is the fact that the current challenge process will rely on a system of square kilometer grid squares with a buffer radius that is too small. These rules have yielded a challenge scheme in which thousands of kilometer grid squares lack any roads from which drive tests can be conducted, making the areas difficult to challenge.
RWA’s Application for Review urges the FCC to review and reject the Bureaus’ decision to utilize a one kilometer grid cell and one quarter kilometer “buffer radius” for assessing challenges to areas deemed ineligible for MFII support. RWA cites a recent ex parte filing which found by way of illustration that 80.3 percent of the kilometer grid squares in a portion of Oklahoma and Kansas would be unmeasurable using drive tests. Utilizing a one square mile grid with a ¼ mile buffer as urged by RWA and others would alleviate this problem considerably – making only 46 percent of the same area unmeasurable. The filing cited similar results in areas of Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
“Stakeholders cannot rely upon the Commission’s challenge process to adequately address the MFII eligibility map’s shortcomings,” said Carri Bennet, RWA General Counsel. “Under the Commission’s rules, small rural carriers will have difficulty accessing private property to perform the tests needed to mount a challenge and even if they are able to gain access will be forced to mount challenges by testing on foot, or via drones, horseback, four-wheeler, or crop duster. This is not the ‘robust challenge process’ rural Americans have been promised.”
RWA is concerned that the current challenge process parameters will impose significant and unnecessary costs on prospective challengers, and allow the Commission’s inaccurate picture of mobile wireless coverage to stand unchallenged in most places. Rural consumers will bear the consequences of these Commission decisions for the next decade. RWA’s Application for Review urges the Commission to require the use of a one square mile grid cell size and ¼ mile buffer radius for eligible area challenges, or remand the matter to the Bureaus with instructions to do the same.
In a separate filing to the Bureaus, RWA requests that the MFII Challenge Process end date be extended until the full Commission has ruled on the Application for Review.