Kansas Farm Bureau Challenges FCC’s Cellphone Map

Jun 22, 2018

A Federal Communications Commission map suggests Kansas and other Midwestern states have near-perfect cellphone coverage.

The Kansas Farm Bureau begs to differ. And, in doing so, could help Kansas qualify for federal money to improve service.

The FCC’s map showed Kansas and other flat states like Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio had good cell signals based on models that show towers have long reaches on level terrain.

The federal agency knew that map might be flawed, and asked stakeholders to correct it, according to Catherine Moyer, who runs the western Kansas internet and telephone co-op Pioneer Communications.

“There’s a whole challenge process,” Moyer said.

That’s why the Kansas Farm Bureau applied for and was granted a waiver to survey coverage in Kansas. It’ll crowdsource the work, meaning interested residents can download an FCC-developed app and run speed tests, which will be used to create a new map.

But it’s unclear how this effort will turn out, because it may not be done properly. For example, people running the speed test are asked to disable Wi-Fi and to not run the test from inside buildings or cars.

“If you're just relying on the random U.S. citizen to go out and say I'm going to check this spot and this spot and this spot … it could end up being pretty messy,” Moyer said.

Should Kansas Farm Bureau identify significant holes in coverage, the state could qualify for part of a $4.5 billion federal “mobility fund” primarily aimed at improving cellular infrastructure in rural areas that lack fast data coverage.

A Kansas Farm Bureau representative said they expect to complete the public data gathering portion by late July.

To learn more about their program or get involved, visit www.kfb.org/Get-Involved/Connecting-Kansas

Ben Kuebrich reports for High Plains Public Radio in Garden City, KS. Follow him on @Ben_Kuebrich.