Manchin submits challenge to FCC broadband map

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is challenging the Federal Communications Commission regarding its map on broadband services.

Manchin submitted a formal challenge Monday to the Mobility Fund Phase II initial eligible areas map, the only lawmaker to do so.

Manchin argued the map does not accurately show broadband coverage in West Virginia, leaving some out of receiving reliable and affordable broadband.

“Rural areas were getting screwed, and all of West Virginia was getting screwed because these big-time carriers were showing, ‘Oh, this is our area. We’ve got it taken care of, don’t worry,'” Manchin said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“They’re only going to go into areas where they know that they’re going to have a return on an investment. It’s no different than electricity back in the 1930s.”

The FCC granted Manchin a waiver in May to challenge the map. The Mobility Fund Phase II includes $4.53 billion in federal funding to build 4G LTE service in areas of need.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin said he wants city and other local governments to challenge the FCC regarding connectivity, pointing out the drawbacks to a lack of coverage.

“I’ll give you one town: Weston, West Virginia. Right in the middle of the state,” he said. “We tested 36 sites. Out of 36 sites, 29 failed completely. Zero. No coverage.”

“This is where hospitals and doctors are basically requiring and counting on being able to have telecommunications, teleservice, telehealth, if you will, and can’t even connect.”

Local governments can challenge the FCC with assistance from Manchin’s office, who can alter its findings. According to Manchin, the area’s carrier will have to either increase coverage or new competition will be encouraged to do business in the area.

“I’ll assure you every county does not have coverage and the maps are not accurate,” he said.

“They’ve got to get off their duffs and basically start fighting for their communities. We’ll help them. We’ll do everything we can to train them. It’s not that hard, but it does take time.”

Manchin and then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler met in 2015 to discuss improving broadband investments. He sent a letter to current Chairman Ajit Pai in March encouraging cooperation to ensure the map is accurate.

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