FCC proposes a $164,000 fine against ISP for providing inaccurate broadband deployment data

The FCC has proposed a fine of $163,912 against BarrierFree ISP for failing to file Form 477 broadband deployment data, providing inaccurate information, and false statements to the investigators. While the fine is not severe enough to deter future violations, this is the first time the FCC has fined a carrier for its failure to provide accurate broadband deployment data.

The ongoing pandemic has revealed that we have big broadband problems in this country,” Commissioner Rosenworcel wrote. “Addressing them starts with getting honest and accurate information about where service is and is not throughout the country. I remain hopeful that the FCC can turn a new page and correct our data and fix our maps, but I worry about the signals this enforcement action sends today.”

Inaccurate reporting from ISPs is not the only potential issue with the FCC’s broadband data. CWA has long argued that the FCC’s Form 477 broadband deployment data likely understates the number of households without access to high-speed Internet. By the FCC’s measurement method, if one subscriber in an area has broadband service, the entire area is considered covered. For example, FCC data showed 100 percent broadband access in Ferry County, WA. However, Microsoft estimates that same county’s coverage at 2 percent. A study by BroadbandNow puts the number of Americans without broadband access at 42.8 million, more than twice the FCC’s estimates.

Links:

FCC fines Form 477 failures, ‘rip and replace’ worries rural providers, Facebook to block anti-voting ads (Broadband Breakfast, Sep. 4, 2020)

Microsoft study: Almost half of Americans lack access to broadband Internet (Speed Matters, Dec. 6, 2018)

CWA to FCC: Broadband is not being deployed in a timely fashion (Speed Matters, Dec. 16, 2019)

Statement of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in the matter of Barrier Communications Corporation d/b/a BarrierFree (FCC, Sep. 2, 2020)