The more things change, the more they stay the same
One would think that as often as the carriers get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, at some point they would get wise. However, it appears some mega-corporations might have lying and cheating woven into their DNA.
What brought on this missive, you ask? Well, it was the business as usual with Verizon, T-Mo and US Cellular.
One year ago, the agency launched an investigation into whether one or more major carriers violated the Mobility Fund Phase II reverse auction’s mapping rules and submitted incorrect coverage maps. The investigation uncovered some disconcerting news. These three were found to have misled the FCC on their 4G rural footprint coverage.
Why this matters is two-fold. First, it is your money being stolen. Second, it is a crystal-clear indicator of the companies’ moral compass. What makes this even worse is that the FCC will do nothing! Talk about inbreeding among the FCC and the carriers.
To be fair, the FCC has slapped the hand (and trust me, it has never been more than a slap) of carriers from time to time. But the slap was so mild, the carriers barely flinched. This has shown the carriers that, in the event they do get caught, the penalty is laughable, and does nothing to curtail such future behavior.
Quickly, the Government Mobility Fund is a resource that is used to support the stratification of 4G services in rural and underserved areas. In theory, the fund offers cash to carriers to offset the losses so often present in providing service to low-density deployment areas. That allows such area to gain access to the services offers in denser (and profitable) markets. Written into the agreement is the caveat that telcos receiving funds must provide accurate coverage maps to ensure the funds were being used for the exact purpose intended.
However, true to these particular carriers’ DNA they lied. The investigation, prompted by smaller, rural telcos complaining the nationwide players were exaggerating coverage maps, found that the aforementioned carriers, indeed, exaggerated footprint numbers. I suspect they were spending some of it on what it was supposed to be spent on. The bottom line is that these telcos were, simply, lying to the FCC and the general public (what a shock!).
The news that they fudged and lied about it does not surprise me. The fact that the FCC is not entertaining any penalties is a bit surprising, but not, altogether, unexpected. What really angers me is that the FCC has allowed these three bumpkins to simply develop another initiative to apply for another government hand-out to the tune of $9 billion! To quote a source that wishes to remain anonymous, “This is perhaps the latest example of a toothless watchdog [the FCC], with the bureaucrats in possession of the same spine as a lifeless slug.”
Adding insult to injury, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was quoted as saying, “We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow. And, in true government style, he added that “I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas…”
You have got to be kidding me. The fact that the FCC simply glossed over this and has no intention of any punitive measures is just ridiculous. However, are any of us really surprised that the accused 800-pound gorillas will be able to thumb their noses at these regulators and the tax-paying public and get away with spending taxpayer’s money in such an irresponsible manner? Apparently, the FCC is just ignoring all of this as well as doing nothing to ensure that such abuses do not reoccur.
Apparently, some carriers are comfortable enough to carry out such transgressions at their whim. Why not? Even if they get caught, fines are nothing more than a minor nuisance. Obviously, they have no fear of government regulators, the FCC in particular.
Two things come from this scenario. First, if carriers cannot be trusted to do what is right with the original billions of dollars, what makes anyone think they will not just rinse, and repeat the same program with the next $9 billion. Such flagrant disregard for both regulation and honesty is appalling and simply encourages the telcos to keep on lying and cheating without fear of reprisal.
Second, the fact that the FCC has chosen to simply ignore this and then has the audacity to add MORE money to the coffer, again, without ANY repercussions of the perpetrators, is also appalling.
How long it will take for these and other telcos to find another way to scam tax dollars and what will the FCC’s response will be?