Is anyone really surprised about this?
A Vermont state employee drove 6,000 miles in six weeks to prove that the cellular coverage maps from the US government suck – and was wildly successful. In fact not only did he prove conclusively that reports delivered to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by mobile operators aren't worth the paper they're printed on …
Maybe the feral is a blessing in disguise, the elbow-draggers cannot do any harm if they are twiddling their thumbs at home. Having tried to get straight answers out of feral bureaucrat, it is a hit or mostly miss affair when they are trying to be helpful. It also does not surprise the appeal process is a torturous affair to make the appeal almost in possible.
Continue being surprised.
That was a state official working for his state,
The F in FCC stands for Federal
And it's they, lead by their leader "Sweet" Pai that is doing the knuckle dragging.
This is a (small) start to penetrating the Big Telco wall of BS about their supposed Broadband availability (although this doesn't address that) and cell reception (which it does)..
Actually, I did this once... for 3 months.
When Rootmetrics first showed their face on this glorious isle of ours, I was annoyed by the mobile coverage maps that our mobile operators here spaff out. Some of their maps are just sheer fantasy (like Vodafone claiming that we had 3G coverage when we just about got GPRS). Their (Rootmetrics) Vodafone coverage in their map around our neck of the woods wasn't that good. So, as it happened, Vodafone had given me a new contract with unlimited* data for 3 months. So I took ruthless advantage with the new fancy phone (an iPhone 4), and ran RM's app constantly in loop mode on my journeys to and from work, into Oxford, around the back country, wherever my fancy took me, the phone and the network were being hammered. After 3 months, Vodafone said that my data usage was above average, would I like to upgrade the data portion of my plan? No, given that in those 3 months, the RM map around our neck of the woods started looking a damn sight better and my purpose was done.
And yes, when EE crowed how RM said their network was best, they were *not* lying. Vodafone was *crap*, no wonder they cried foul. But given that my own data collection showed that Vodafone *was* in fact crap, I applauded EE. I'm still with Vodafone though... mostly because tech support (should I need it) is actually around after 8pm (unlike EE), and because some of my plan bennies are worth it.
Yes, for a bigger drone. Economically, probably not. 40 mph in a car covers a lot of 400 m sections in the course of an hour. Drones would be good to fill in a few spots to get adequate coverage of a few nearby blocks, but not for general data gathering. And not for tens of thousands of blocks.
This is a classic case of making required evidence nearly unobtainable, in order to prevent questioning of the current truth.
"This is a classic case of making required evidence nearly unobtainable, in order to prevent questioning of the current truth."
An alternative way to look at it is that every State submits "made up" figures for their coverage areas and leaves it up to the FCC and/or Telcos to prove them wrong by going out and getting their own data. You can't disprove the States submitted data by wishing it away. You need evidence. :-)
A day's worth of verifiable data on a simple fixed axis, a week's main-roading and an extrapolation to give an 'actual' map. This 'actual' map is presented as an 'actual' 'genuine' ,'measured', 'I swam that lake with the mobiles on my back' map. Then whatever arbitration would necessitate examining both the telcos and the alternative's data are not quite what they ought to be. So what, when faced with 2+2=5 and 3+3=6 the FCC will have to either admit to partiality or get better facts.
@taxythingy don't forget there are many types of 'drone' not just quad/hex-copters. They could use a model airplane, that would have a much larger run time and cover a larger distance. These can be fitted with an autopilot with a grid to fly in and volia instant map.
My biggest thought with the idea of using a drone is that it would not be sampling where the phones are used, but 100yards in the air. Not exactly where I often am lol
> My biggest thought with the idea of using a drone is that it would not be sampling where the phones are used, but 100yards in the air. Not exactly where I often am lol
Yup - networks are designed to give coverage on the ground, not in the air - even if some signal can bleed upwards, it will not be representative quality.
Exactly - that's probably how the phone companies got their numbers. When I visit my mother-in-law out in rural Mississippi I can get passable service by driving a couple of miles down the road to a high spot. Otherwise the phone (my only source of Internet) is dead - on the other hand, it's kinda nice - no phone calls from work and no emails. Sorry guys, I don't have any phone service this weekend.
This sounds like an ideal opportunity for an all-American solution to present itself - if the kit is light enough to be carried on horseback.
You could probably get several episodes of a comedy series based on this premise - can someone think of a better title than the "Coverage Cowboys"?
The author probably meant rural. In the not too distant past there were more cows in Vermont than people.
On another note it took more than a week for our local rag, the Burlington Free Press, to give this story a quick line. For another take with a different slant look at the version on vtdigger.org.
We live in Burlington so are blessed with good cell coverage and free Wi-Fi downtown courtesy of our own local ISP. (There's another story for another day.) However I was recently in Craftsbury at a popular ski resort with zip, nada coverage. I used to live in Dover where the local politician quoted in the vtdigger article resides. It also hosts a large ski resort, but a narrow valley between high hills and mountains probably has many blind spots.
1) Stick the gear in the back of the Google Street View car.
2) Drive street view car at 40 mph
Assuming that the FCC coverage maps are improved and the money to improve coverage is forthcoming, this will be good for consumers and Google. When coverage is improved, more people use the net and when more people use the net Google makes more money.
Outfit the Amazon Prime delivery vans. Watching the numbers on the Wigle wi-fi tracking site, I see some users logging tens of thousands of AP's every month ... clearly delivery/taxi service geeks. Wigle tracks cell towers too so they should be quite a bit of information there.
FCC will update its maps? The regulatory agency owned by the comm companies? Man, where'd you get those mushrooms? The regulatory agency that makes you pay $250 to file a formal complaint against telecomms? The agency that believes Frontier Telecomm's false and misleading advertising that 2.75Mbps is high speed broadband? You gotta be kidding.
One thing I love about the Australian system, if you manage to get a formal complaint through the industry ombudsman to the telco, then the carrier has to pay for that complaint on receipt, not the customer. Also, any decision by the ombudsman is binding. Saying your going to make a complaint to the industry ombudsman when talking to the carrier and starting formal proceedings with the carrier really brings them to the table to try to fix your issues instead of ignoring you and hope you go away.
Unless that carrier is the one which is an acronym for Tells Extreme Lies, Screws Totally Rural Australians.
Case in point - they advertise getting a land line connected to a premises which has changed owners and had an existing working connection is $x
Then send a bill for $5X and refuse to acknowledge registered letter of complaint.
Contact Telecom Ombudsman and ten minutes later TELSTRA are on line promising to correct the problem by issuing a credit (they CLAIM they cannot correct the error, only issue a credit).
Four weeks later the new bill arrives with half the promised credit.
Contact Ombudsman again and again ten minutes later TELSTRA are on line promising to correct the problem by issuing a second credit and again they CLAIM they cannot correct the error, only issue a credit).
Four weeks later a new bill with a whole lot of charges that the local TELSTRA office cannot decode
And ON and ON and ON until I changed to an honest network.
Not sure how many here came across it or installed it, but a few years ago Ofcom published an app that collected just this kind of data from real users.
The results, for the UK, are interesting: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/telecoms-research/mobile-smartphones/consumer-mobile-experience
If others, like the FCC, were not in the pockets of those they are theoretically supposed to be regulating then this kind of thing would work in the US too.
To save click though, the reports key finding are pasted below:
Key findings 2018
* Three-quarters of the time, data connections were made to a wifi rather than to a cellular network, a six percentage point increase since 2016. There were no significant differences in this measure by rurality or nation.
* When consumers with access to 4G technologies connected to a cellular network, a 4G network was available for data use for 81% of the time (up from 65% in 2016), with consumers in urban areas spending significantly more time than those in rural areas on 4G networks. Consumers in Wales spent significantly less time connected to a 4G network than those in other nations.
* Consumers initiating a data connection to a 4G network were successful on 98.7% of occasions, compared to 93.1% of attempt to connect to a 3G network. Data connections were more likely to fail in peak periods for both 3G and 4G networks.
* The average download speed delivered varied significantly by application (less than 1Mbit/s for apps such as Chrome, Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and WhatsApp on all network types vs. between 2.7 Mbit/s and 3.0 Mbit/s for YouTube and Google Play Store, over wifi and 4G).
* There was a strong correlation between the number of tests and the average download speeds for Chrome and YouTube on 4G networks, with speeds slowing down in peak hours.
* Once initiated, less than 1% of all voice calls were dropped due to loss of service, with no significant differences when comparing rurality, nations or network technologies.
* More than eight in ten Android smartphone users (84%) were satisfied with the overall network performance of their mobile provider, with satisfaction levels higher in urban areas and in England.
* Web browsing was rated as the most important activity that people used their phone for, followed by voice calls.
Surely if the providers are lying about coverage and data speeds, those who have a contract with them can sue, or at worst have the contract declared void.
I ditched Vodafone here because their coverage was awful in the 2 places I used it most (home and work) but their support people swore blind that their coverage in both areas was excellent. They then offered to let me buy a £60 microcell to compensate for their crap coverage at which point I moved to Tesco (O2) and now enjoy decent coverage nearly everywhere. Voda have since improved their coverage for my home area, so I guess it wasn't as "excellent" as they claimed after all.
And switch to who exactly?
The "other" provider* is promising 7G coverage. This is an entire 2G more that AT&T is selling**. Shirley it must be better.
* The reality is the signal comes from the same crappy tower which I can only hope gets upgraded to 3G one day.
** Yes, 5G doesn't actually exist yet, but let's not let facts get in the way of the advertising.
ISTM that if you used all relevant and already available data (power, height and aerial type of all the towers, topography, population density, cell capacity etc.), a computer algorithm could predict both coverage and average data speeds fairly readily. The physical test described would be far less accurate for any number of reasons - radio shadow areas caused by the car & equipment itself, temporary data congestion causing falsely low rates at the time of the test, belated cell handovers causing the download test to be done on a weak signal when a stronger signal from another cell tower exists. Etc. etc.
Because predictions need verification. Besides that, congestion is an operator problem, not a user problem. The user experiences less than advertised connection and (rightly so) doesn't give the least about the cause of it, it is just the operator not delivering.
The user experiences less than advertised connection and (rightly so) doesn't give the least about the cause of it, it is just the operator not delivering.
But it needs to be the result of *protracted* testing.
If a 90 second test at 14:15:09 last Thursday gave a result of 70Mbps download speed, would you be quite happy even though most of the time you hardly ever get more than 1Mbps?
While real-World tests are likely to be more accurate than the theoretical *if* they are done properly, the theoretical average performance is likely to be more accurate than a one-off 2 minute drive-through test.
Both data contention and signal path analysis are both very well established arts and give very accurate results *if* the correct parameters are used. Results that are more accurate than one-off snapshots of under 1% of the total area covered, anyway.
"If a 90 second test at 14:15:09 last Thursday gave a result of 70Mbps download speed, would you be quite happy even though most of the time you hardly ever get more than 1Mbps?"
On the other hand, if traffic belts down your street at 70mph 10pm until 4am, but crawls along at 10mph during the day, would you be happy if the council told you there wasn't a speeding problem because the average is under 30mph (This is a real world case)
"a computer algorithm could predict both coverage and average data speeds "
Ah, I see you have discovered the difference between the theoretical and the actual. Personally I can not connect to a network based on theoretical speeds. The actual speed seems to make a difference though.
The tests were done in Vermont, which couldn't be measured fully because a lot of the areas are remote and rural. If congestion was the cause of these subpar measurements, the mobile companies do not know how to deal with congestion. These aren't metropolises we're looking at; the largest city in Vermont is Burlington with ~42000 people in it, and that is the largest city by 250%. Also, a challenge can't be made because an algorithm says the situation is bad, both because the FCC has set the rules to be much stricter than that but also because someone else could write a different algorithm to disagree. They were required to have ground truth, so they went and got it.
"The physical test described would be far less accurate for any number of reasons "
The physical test would give REAL WORLD results, vs "optimal" ones.
Funnily enough, what actually counts in the end is..... REAL WORLD RESULTS.
Computer generated coverage maps based on topography are surprisingly accurate - even ones done as far back as the early 1980s. I drove surveys for a Telco when we were installing AMPS systems back in the dark ages and the holes that were predicted - and which we didn't believe - turned out to be 100% accurate (interestingly there were a number of dead spots in large flat areas of plains that weren't expected, due to long undulations the eye couldn't see but the mapping systems correctly marked as problematic)
Unfortunately those engineering-driven coverage maps got, shall we say, "heavily overoptimised" by marketing types to "remove" all those dead spots and make everything else look just peachy too. It didn't make them any less obvious to people driving down the highways in question, nor did it reduce caller blood pressure when helpdesks would tell complainers "according to our coverage maps everything is just peachy at XYZ spot, so there must be something wrong with your phone" (where engineering maps clearly showed no coverage - and that was with optimal antennas centrally mounted on the tops of vans and properly plugged into phones, not some handsfree thing trying to transmit out through a metallised windscreen.)
I've never seen a coverage map that states a resolution. There are spots in my house and the garage that are black holes for signal and I don't expect that any coverage map is going to show signal strength in 1m grids. Most of the time, the mobile coverage is not that bad. It punks out in the boonies, but on a major highway (motorway) it's pretty amazing to have good signal where there is nothing but wheat fields from horizon to horizon. I think we all know that when a call drops, give it a couple of minutes and ring up again. If data is just crawling, move 10m in any direction and it will likely improve.
It's hinted at at the end of the article, but we're missing the difference between population coverage and area coverage. Round here the are many 1km blocks with zero residents, and zero roads. You can check this with the OS coverage available through Bing Maps, a good example is the area north of Brigg. It likely still gets coverage, it has people working there, but nobody lives there. There are similarly empty grid squares on the Lincolnshire Wolds, which might not get good coverage because of the hills.
And internet coverage is not the same as voice coverage.
What a map such as this could be good for is suggesting areas with more people that are worth more checking. It depends what they call a main road for this survey, but the article suggests that they would only be the A-roads on a British map (and not all of them). I can see on my local maps that there are villages of over 1000 people, mostly in one grid square, which are 5 miles from any A-road. I don't know where the phone towers are, but five miles, line of sight. would be a possibility for one.
The population distribution is lumpy on a 1km grid. A map such as this one is only a first step. But it's people, not grid squares, that vote and use the internet.
They used ArcGIS as the main mapping tool? My sympathies. I took it for a test drive and was supremely frustrated and disappointed, but they still send me huge full color magazines every couple of weeks. Goodness knows how much of our government's money they... well I rant but anyway, my sympathies.
"They used ArcGIS as the main mapping tool?"
You might find it frustrating and disappointing (millions do) but it's _the_ standard tool, so using anything else is an exercise in frustration if you want your results to be readable by anyone else.
A bit like the situation with MS word a few years ago.....
Hell I live close to VT in NH like less than 20 miles and from my town to the next big town 10 miles away and in my town there is no signal and we all have to hook up to wireless routers to use phones in our homes or yard and no phones on the drive so if you break down at night and there is no one answering the door or no traffic you could die from the cold in the winter. Yeah it's all bullshit so the phone companies can maximize profits.
This was a good series of tests, despite not covering the entire state in the manner specified by the FCC, because all cell relay towers are near roads. Running additional tests from somewhere in the middle of a farm or a forest, where there were no roads, would actually have yielded worse results.
I have to drive 8 miles from home to get the first bar of cellular signal - well known by everyone in my community. The cell providers (I have tried many) all insist it is my house blocking the signals; "Wave your phone around by a window and see if it starts working". They believe their own BS and insist I should have adequate service. I give them a STFU and 'send me a free femtocell or cancel my service'. I now have Sprint & Verizon serving signals to anyone who visits my property.
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