Shady: We are all suspicious of cellular and internet coverage cards. Each provider claims the best coverage, which is impossible, so there are good reasons not to trust any of them. But cheating their coverage boundaries is more than just getting your business. Some Internet service providers make unreasonable claims against the regions of competing service providers in order to prevent them from receiving grants to expand and improve local broadband.
Ohio’s Internet provider Jefferson County Cable (JCC) recently accidentally impersonated the Federal Communications Commission for claiming coverage in an area it did not serve. It started when Ryan Grewell, general manager of local rival provider Smart Way Communications, received calls from some of his customers who reported that the updated FCC broadband map listed their addresses as having fiber-optic internet offered by JCC.
Smart Way serves these addresses, not JCC, which is why Grewell has filed several complaints with the FCC. At least one of the submissions went back to JCC Executive Director Bob Loveridge. Thinking he was responding to a resident at the disputed address, Loveridge sent an email to Grewell in which he admitted that his company had lied to prevent its competitors from receiving a grant to develop fiber in the area. Grewell shared a conversation with Ars Technica.
“You disputed that we don’t have service in your home, and today it really isn’t,” the January 9 email says. “Thanks to our huge investment in upgrading our service to provide xgpon [10 Gbit/s passive optical network] we have informed BDC [Broadband data collection] that we have a service in your home so that they don’t allocate additional [sic] money for broadband expansion exceeds our private investment in our factory.”
Grewell didn’t know whether to be angry or amused.
“This cable company just said the quiet part out loud,” he told Ars over the phone. “[This is] a blatant attempt to prevent anyone else from getting funding in the area they intend to serve.”
As far as we can tell, Jefferson County Cable has not announced plans to build fiber in the area in question. Since the multibillion-dollar grants of the FCC expansion program are provided where necessary, the JCC had to admit to the commission that it had made a mistake and submit a correction.
Ars confirms that the coverage map has indeed been updated. Unfortunately, it excludes only one address in the contested area along Route 43. The houses next door and on the same street still have fiber provided by JCC.
Also, the problem is even more common than one city in Ohio. Officials in Nevada found at least 20,000 errors on the Federal Communications Commission’s map in their state. Similarly, Vermont reported more than 60,000 people. Ars Technica notes that there are currently more than a million calls on the FCC card nationwide.
If the claims are considered and answered one by one, who knows how long it will take to completely fix the card? Meanwhile, until everything becomes accurate, entire regions eligible for federal grants to help expand and improve local infrastructure remain hostages of deceitful Internet providers.