Sen. Manchin collects more than 1,000 speed tests

Surpasses his goal for 2020 and now looks to increase the goal for the year
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Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 8:06 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - For months we’ve been covering slow internet speeds and telling the stories of residents who struggle to connect to high-speed internet.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has been collecting speed tests from his constituents to turn over to the Federal Communication Commission to prove their broadband data maps are wrong.

His initial goal of collecting 1,000 speed tests in 2020 was accomplished this week. He tells WSAZ he’s now looking to reach 1,500 or even 2,000.

“This just a small sampling,” Manchin said. “This is happening all over America. Rural America is getting left behind. They have no comeback, no justification to why we aren’t getting covered.”

Last week, Manchin questioned the FCC chairman Ajit Pai on how much funding the FCC would need to fix the current broadband coverage maps, which have been proven to be incorrect. He also questioned the distribution of funding to expand broadband access during a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Subcommittee Hearing.

“These companies should have a conscience to give us a better service,” Manchin said. “We’re captive. We’re going to stay on top of them and shame them until they make it better.”

Manchin told the chairman that during the COVID-19 pandemic, West Virginia struggled to support telehealth operations. Many agencies were limited to audio calls because they didn’t have the internet signal strength or access to do video conferencing.

“It’s a shame. Something has to be done.”

Senator Joe Manchin

He estimates about 30 to 40 percent of the state didn’t have access to telehealth during the pandemic.

Manchin says it’s taken the FCC two years to acknowledge that their maps are wrong.

He has filed a lawsuit to prevent the disbursement of funds until the maps are corrected and updated to more accurately depict broadband coverage.

“Well I think they made a difference because that’s the first thing Chairman Pai said ‘we’ve gotten your results of your tests,’” Manchin said. “‘They don’t coincide with what you thought was going on in my state did they. He said ‘no’ and I said ‘that’s a problem.‘”

In May, the senator sent a letter to the Chairman regarding their broadband data report released for 2020. It read, in part:

“We both know that the broadband coverage results published in this report are based on inaccurate and overstated coverage data. Your report claims that 16 counties in West Virginia have the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) definition of fixed broadband (25/3 Mpbs) deployment of over 90% (Berkeley, Boone, Cabell, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Logan, Marion, Mercer, Ohio, Raleigh, Wood, and Wyoming). However, I have sent you multiple fixed-broadband speed test letters from 15 of these counties showing actual speeds well below that threshold. Additionally, your report states that 10 counties in West Virginia have 100% deployment of the most basic mobile LTE (5/1 Mpbs). However, I have sent you multiple speed tests from three of these counties (Berkeley, Morgan, Wood) with speeds well below that threshold. Clearly, West Virginians experiences on the ground are not matching the rosy picture painted in the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report.”

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