O'Halleran calls out FCC for 'inaccurate' data from tribes

September 14, 2018
In The News

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, is calling out a federal agency for collecting misleading and inaccurate data on broadband access for Native Americans.

The Congressional District 1 representative wrote a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission, criticizing the agency for overstating how well tribal communities can access high-speed internet.

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office released a report that found the FCC’s method for gathering data makes it appear as if more people have access to broadband than actually do.

For example, entire census blocks can be categorized by the FCC as having broadband access, even though only one location in that block has service.

The FCC considered collecting data at a more granular level nationwide in 2013, according to the report, but decided the “burden would outweigh the benefit.”

The report further found the FCC was not collecting data on broadband affordability, service quality or denials of service.

Tribal representatives told GAO auditors this data-collecting method inhibits their ability to develop broadband networks or obtain federal funding.

In his letter, O’Halleran wrote the inaccurate data undermines Congress’s ability to pass legislation that expands affordable broadband in underserved areas.

“... The use of faulty data that understates broadband access in tribal areas increases the risk that tribal residents will continue to lack the funding they need to access high-speed internet,” stated the letter, which was co-written by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.

The letter further noted how the FCC had been reporting 91 percent of Arizonans living on reservations lack broadband. But the GAO report now calls into question whether the situation is even worse than previously thought, the letter stated.

O’Halleran’s district includes most of Pinal County and encompasses the Gila River, Ak-Chin, Navajo, Hopi and White Mountain Apache Indian reservations.

Both lawmakers are asking FCC to provide accurate, up-to-date reports on broadband access for tribal communities in Arizona and New Mexico.