RWA is pleased that the FCC has adopted an item extending the Mobility Fund Phase II challenge process by 90 days. Cumbersome technical requirements and overstated unsubsidized 4G LTE coverage have made the process tremendously time consuming and expensive – several RWA members report that they will spend between $1 and 1.5 million to participate in the challenge process. “Our members have been working tirelessly to mount challenges in unserved areas where unsubsidized carriers have claimed coverage in order to ensure that such areas are eligible for support – and they’re spending resources that would be better put toward expanding service into unserved areas in order to do it,” RWA President and CEO Mike Kilgore said. “The additional 90 days is crucial to our members’ ability to complete their testing efforts.”
RWA also welcomes the Commission’s decision to deny a Verizon Application for Review seeking to overturn a Bureau-level decision to increase the maximum distance between speed test measurements from 500 to 800 meters and the associated buffer radius from 250 to 400 meters. The rationale behind the decision, adopted on the Bureaus’ own motion, was based on new evidence in the record submitted by RWA earlier this year. Additional evidence filed by RWA showed that in a given area 82.3 percent of the kilometer grid squares with a ¼ kilometer buffer would be unmeasurable using drive tests, but that figure would be reduced to 44.87 percent with a 400 meter buffer. Further analysis found that it would take 7,522 hours (or 50 hours per day for each of the 150 days in the initial challenge period) to test claimed unsubsidized coverage throughout the Oklahoma Panhandle using kilometer grid squares with a ¼ kilometer buffer. That figure decreased dramatically to 2,813 hours (or approximately 19 hours per day) using a square kilometer grid cell and 400 meter buffer radius.
The 90-day challenge process extension and buffer radius confirmation in today’s Order will help to alleviate the significant burden of participating in the MF-II challenge process,” said RWA Regulatory Counsel Erin Fitzgerald. “This extra time and longer buffer radius will help RWA members and other prospective challengers be better able to undertake the work necessary to mount successful challenges. This will, in turn, yield a more accurate 4G LTE coverage map and help to target USF support in rural areas where it is badly needed.”