The FCC is set to release a proposed map of eligible areas for the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) reverse auction, and it has asked for the industry to challenge that map.
“Release of this map will help ensure a timely and effective MF-II challenge process as the map will inform challengers of those areas for which they will need to test the coverage of only one unsubsidized mobile provider,” the commission press release said. It will be available on the FCC’s website at www.fcc.gov/mobility-fund-phase-2.
The MF-II reverse auction will make $4.53 billion available to the winners over 10 years to provide service to areas that lack unsubsidized 4G LTE service as part of the FCC’s initiative to have seamless nationwide access to mobile voice and broadband service.
Mosaik Solutions is one of the companies that will take part in the challenge process helping to define the geographic areas included in the reverse action. The latest eligibility map made for Mobility Fund II used more precise and uniform information from the carriers, but it is still not accurate in terms of the size of the eligible areas, according Chip Strange, VP, Mosaik strategy and business development.
“The eligible areas map is still smaller than it should be, so there is push back from the industry,” Strange told AGL eDigest. “It is another example of a mandated data collection process that is not universally appreciated.”
Strange said the industry must come together to solve the problem of creating a map of areas that qualify for the MF-II wireless subsidy. The problem at its core is the dependence on the carriers to paint a realistic picture of their coverage areas using outdated drive testing methods.
“I do not believe you can successfully map out mobile broadband availability without extending the reach of those testing efforts into the most rural parts of the country,” Strange said. “The only way you are going to be able to do that is with the more modern capabilities that Mosaik and others have, leveraging consumer devices (crowdsourcing) to collect information about broadband RF capability and data network performance.”
Crowdsourcing is one of several options that could be used to improve the quality of the information, Strange said. Maps using different data sets can be overlapped to lead to more accurate conclusions. The FCC’s eligible areas map should be tested against maps provided by the industry. In March, the House of Representatives passed H.R 4986, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services, or RAY BAUM’S Act, which included funding for the more accurate rural wireless coverage maps.
“We think things are aligning to where the right people are involved in these discussions,” Strange said. “It is nice to see Congress more active setting expectations of the FCC and providing the NTIA with funding to begin to set a new national broadband coverage map in collaboration with the other agencies.”Strange noted that while congressional interest in pushing high speed wireless into rural, unserved areas is very high, more funding and guidance is needed.
“The request from Office of Management and Budget for more accurate coverage maps to Congress was for $50 million, but Congress appropriated only $7.5 million, which is only enough to get it started.
The challenge process run for the rest of the year and the FCC will provide a list of areas that are new eligible areas map with input from the challenge process. And then the reverse mobile auction would begin. In the reverse auction, the operators’ bid on a geographic area will equate them naming their subsidiary. The operator willing to build out an area for less than the others will have the winning bid for the area.