Chairman [Ajit] Pai’s press release previewing the forthcoming 2019 Broadband Deployment Report is another example of the Chairman seemingly taking unearned credit for broadband deployment trends that began long before his tenure. But whatever credit the Chairman does or, in truth, does not deserve for recent broadband gains, that press release – and apparently the forthcoming 2019 Report – relied on erroneous data.
More specifically, the press release and seemingly the draft 2019 Report, as well, rely on analysis of FCC Form 477 data that includes tremendous over-reporting by a single CLEC/WISP. And the inclusion of that data results in a massive over-statement of the change in broadband deployment at the national level during 2017.
Free Press respectfully submits that this error is of such magnitude that the Commission must address it prior to adopting the 2019 Report.
When conducting our initial analysis of the December 2017 Form 477 Deployment data, we noticed that a new Form 477 filer, Barrier Communication (dba BarrierFree), claimed deployment of fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless services (each at downstream/upstream speeds of 940 Mbps/880 Mbps) to Census blocks containing nearly 62 million persons. This claimed level of deployment would make BarrierFree the fourth largest U.S. ISP in terms of population coverage – an implausible suggestion, to put it mildly.
This claimed level of deployment stood out to us for numerous reasons, including the impossibility of a new entrant going from serving zero Census blocks as of June 30, 2017, to serving nearly 1.5 million blocks containing nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population in just six months’ time. We further examined the underlying Form 477 data and discovered that BarrierFree appears to have simply submitted as its coverage area a list of every single Census block in each of eight states in which it claimed service: CT, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VA.
BarrierFree claims to offer speed tiers topping out at 940 Mbps/880 Mbps in all of its blocks, using both fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless services. This speed combination is unique to Verizon’s FiOS FTTH service, and Verizon is the only other 477 filer to claim such a speed tier. But according to BarrierFree’s own website, it does not market fiber-to-the-home service at any speed. Furthermore, the maximum advertised speed for its residential fixed wireless service is 25 Mbps symmetrical.
We are unable to determine exactly why BarrierFree reported in this manner, or why the Commission failed to notice this apparent grievous error before boasting about the December 2017 results in its recent press release.