WASHINGTON — Are you being served?
Cable operators have been making the case as to why the latest version of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map (updated Dec. 10, 2012) leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to identifying areas not served by broadband.
According to various MSOs — including Comcast, the nation’s largest — tens of thousands of areas continue to be misidentified as lacking high-speed broadband availability.
Cable operators are concerned that the government, both through the Universal Service Fund and billions in broadband stimulus grants, is subsidizing their competitors in census blocks (the unit of broadband availability measurement) where high-speed data service from cable operators is already available.
Wireless Internet-service providers two weeks ago tried to get the FCC to rescind its request for input from cable operators on the accuracy of that map, but the agency rejected that call — and MSOs are giving the FCC an earful in comments. Wireless companies and incumbent local-exchange carriers are eligible for support to deliver broadband to unserved areas.
Comcast initially told the FCC that its map had misidentified 15,870 census blocks as unserved where it was providing what the FCC defines as high-speed data service: 3 Megabits per second downstream and 768 Kbps upstream. But it has since updated that number of miscounted homes, which it warned was preliminary, to almost double that amount.
Charter Communications said it sent the FCC a list of 6,685 census blocks in two dozen states that the FCC’s map says are unserved, but that it provides with high-speed service.
Time Warner Cable said the FCC “continues to overstate” unserved areas. The No. 2 U.S. operator did not publish the total of misidentified areas it had turned up through an outside consultant. A TWC spokesperson would not comment, but a source on back- ground identified that number as north of 6,000.
All of the MSOs want the FCC to provide no Universal Service support from the Connect America Fund (CAF) to the areas they have pointed out as misidentified.
Subsidizing competition could lower prices for broadband, another FCC goal, but as Charter points out, the FCC has said that CAF support is meant for “areas that are unserved by any broadband provider.
But Comcast may have created some new map issues in its filing. The MSO said it identified 76,925 census blocks where the map says Comcast Internet service is available but Comcast says it is not.