back to article Man drives 6,000 miles to prove Uncle Sam's cellphone coverage maps are wrong – and, boy, did he manage it

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 …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Reality check

    Is anyone really surprised about this?

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Reality check

      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.

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Is anyone really surprised about this?

      No, not surprised at all but still wondering why all stories that provide evidence for things that were previously just "common knowledge" get posts like this.

      It's the evidence that makes this a story.

      1. Crypto Monad

        Re: Is anyone really surprised about this?

        Of course, if every state performs the same exercise, and finds their coverage is equally below what was expected, then the $4.5bn will be divvied up in exactly the same way...

    3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Reality check

      Surprised at the coverage level? No

      Surprised that the networks lied? No

      Surprised that a government department got off their asses* and did something? Yes

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Surprised that a government department got off their asses* and did something? Yes"

        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)..

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Reality check

      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.

    5. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Reality check

      I'm surprised he didn't just use OpenSignal maps with the crowd sourced data.

  2. veti Silver badge

    I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

    Just as soon as their funding is back on, and they've dealt with everything else in their in-tray.

    So, maybe by mid-2021.

    1. ma1010 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

      ...and they've dealt with everything else in their in-tray.

      ...and Satan is ordering antifreeze and winter overcoats.

    2. fishman

      Re: I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

      Only if Trump is out and Pai removed.

      1. Donn Bly

        Re: I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

        As though Obama and Wheeler, or Clinton and Hunt, were any better. Unfortunately incompetence in federal bureaucracies is a problem that transcends political party.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

          No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure the FCC will get right on it

      You're an optimist!

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Of course in reality many of those areas are not easily accessible, especially in a state with large urban areas, hills and mountains etc."

    Even if it were only carried out one network at a time could the equipment be small enough to be carried by drone?

    1. taxythingy

      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.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "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. :-)

        1. Peter Prof Fox

          I really like this idea

          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.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: I really like this idea

            And if the FCC just ignores everyone and goes neener-neener? It's not like Vermont is in any position to go it alone.

        2. I&I

          “Trust but Verify”

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            But how do you verify the verifiers, eh?

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
              Gimp

              You wire their knackers/tits up to the mains with a trigger based on oversight stats.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                And if they're masochists, meaning they get off on it?

      2. smartroad

        @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

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          > 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.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            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.

    2. MikeO3

      The only way to get any valid data is to subpoena the carriers tower engineering data. Good luck with that request.

    3. S4qFBxkFFg

      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"?

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Mobile Mapping Mules?

        Saddles and Spectrum?

        Speed Steeds?

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Shame that Google's cars didn't do this when they took pictures of everything instead of just mapping wifi access points.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            I did suggest that they do this in the UK, along with mapping potholes.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Coverage Cowboys

        Or "mobile phone operator" as they may otherwise be known. When not termed as "dirty rotten liars" of course.

      3. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        With all respect, the all-American solution would be to have the test equipment carried by pigeons. Now, how long before that can happen, Mr. Moore?

      4. Alan_Peery

        Coverage Crusaders!

    4. mosw

      The radio reception in a drone would be much better than the reception on the ground. So the drone data would not be very useful since most users are ground dwellers.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "So the drone data would not be very useful since most users are ground dwellers."

        Can't drones land, or at least hover at about 5 or 6 feet? This isn't Gatwick we're talking about.

    5. john bertelsen

      Rural not urban

      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.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PSA

    Don't search for that guy's name at work.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: PSA

      A bit of a Theresa/Teresa May situation?

      I may check on this at home, or not.

    2. stiine Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: PSA

      Nice. Thanks for that info.

  5. Mark Zip

    A good pro-bono opportunity for Google

    1) Stick the gear in the back of the Google Street View car.

    2) Drive street view car at 40 mph

    3)

    4) Profit!

    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.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: A good pro-bono opportunity for Google

      Go one step further and put gear in every delivery and postal vehicle plus many OTR trucks already have trackers so I'm sure they must also have some data. Since they all have lithium batteries they have to go ground anyway.

      1. Richocet

        Re: A good pro-bono opportunity for Google

        If Google hasn't already done it.

        Remember the news when they were logging everyone's WiFi access points with the cars that shot the Google street view photos.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A good pro-bono opportunity for Google

        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.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: A good pro-bono opportunity for Google

      Google don't need to do that, they could just publish the data they already collect - your Android phone periodically/sporadically connects to "mobilenetworkscoring-pa.googleapis.com". I wonder for what purpose?

  6. Gordon 11

    Why 40mph?

    When I drove through Vermont the state-wide maximum speed limit was 45mph, so it might be to not scare the natives.

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      Why 40mph? If you read the article, it was to remain within the 400m area mandated while the coverage checks were being carried out.

    2. I&I

      While driving on certain roads an hour or so away from Anaheim (S. Cal.), I was advised by a local priest (stopped at an intersection) that driving “too slowly” (like at or below the legal limit) could get you shot.

      In which case the evidence needs to be bulletproof.

    3. Col_Panek

      According to the article, he was driving a Prius.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha ha ha..ha ha

    "No doubt the FCC will immediately start work on ensuring it has accurate data to work from."

  8. Kev99 Bronze badge

    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.

    1. Berny Stapleton

      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.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        So what's to stop the carriers "influencing" the ombudsman?

        1. A.P. Veening

          Probably the reputation of integrity said ombudsman has, just trying to influence him might decide him to find against you.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            But as they say, everyone's got secrets. If they can find just one, they can turn it into "an offer you can't refuse" and avoid blackmail charges by going through channels not subject to the arm of Australian law.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge
              Devil

              This is why I do my best to be shameless. A person without shame can never be blackmailed.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Sure you can. Shame is nothing against the law. Just threaten to plant CP on them and watch them squirm.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          The ombudsman is paid by the number of complaints they receive. If people think complaining is a waste of time, they won't, and the ombudsman won't get any money.

      2. Mi Tasol

        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.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "And ON and ON and ON until I changed to an honest network."

          One assumes the ombudsman is compulsary and small claims court is not an option?

  9. PhilipN Silver badge

    Weren’t accessible from the main roads

    And a miserable to non-existent mobile signal?

    Way-hay! Show me where! That is exactly where I want to be at weekends.

    Well, weekdays too but .... needs must.

  10. guyr

    British English then?

    "Those results doesn't correlate exactly"

    We would say that differently in the states.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facts eh?

    Not round here son.

    Not on my watch.

    - Orange 1

  12. kain preacher Silver badge

    You know they are now going to change the rules and testing methodology. It will now have to with 60 %

  13. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Common Sense

    This is one of those times when common sense would say that the maps are complete garbage. Unfortunatley, corporate lawyers don't get paid to defened common sense.

  14. Notas Badoff

    Impossibilities

    I'm trying to figure out all this in terms of the "impossibility of proving a negative". That seems to be the FCC's mode of operation - increase that difficulty. Meanwhile they are "arguing from ignorance" that everything's just peachy. Have I got that right?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Impossibilities

      You keep saying that phrase: "impossible to prove a negative." Yet we already have reductio ad absurdum demonstrations like Turing's Halting Problem disprove that say otherwise.

  15. Peter Galbavy

    Ofcom "did it right" for once

    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.

  16. Bobby Omelette

    Speed.

    "At 40Mbph, that meant each test was conducted within 360 meters of one another – within the FCC rules."

    I'd love to know more about how they managed to measure the car's speed in Mbph!

    1. DCdave
      Joke

      Re: Speed.

      That's not the car's speed, that's the data download speed they found in the areas where they couldn't meet the 75% testing, so it doesn't really count!

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Speed.

      Well, we know how much information is in an atom, multiply up by "atoms per car", and that's the total Mbits. The rest is an exercise for the student.

  17. Big_Boomer

    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.

    1. IT Poser

      Re: or at worst have the contract declared void.

      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.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The US: a first world country...

    ...third world infrastructure.

    ...not of this world president.

    1. Brad Ackerman

      Re: The US: a first world country...

      If the US actually had third-world infrastructure, we'd have better phone coverage at a tenth of the price.

  19. Spanners Silver badge
    Boffin

    How about a crowdbased solution?

    I came across something called Open Signal. There are others. I use it because it shows me where I can get good coverage. It uses me to test the signal in places.

  20. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Why are physical checks needed?

    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.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: Why are physical checks needed?

      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.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Why are physical checks needed?

        "

        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.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Why are physical checks needed?

          "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)

    2. LordHighFixer

      Re: Why are physical checks needed?

      "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.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Why are physical checks needed?

      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.

    4. Paul Smith

      Re: Why are physical checks needed?

      ... because tower data tells you what is happening at the tower (which you don't care about) and not what is happening between the towers which is what you should care about.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Why are physical checks needed?

      "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.)

      1. Alan_Peery

        Re: Why are physical checks needed?

        Back in the 80s the frequencies would have been different, lower. Doesn't the higher frequency and smaller spot size mean that the local effects (trees, etc) would be more significant?

  21. Scott 53

    Oh dear

    All that work, and the page title reads "Tested in 2018 by Vermont Department of Public Servivce". Corey Chase has been let down.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: Oh dear

      He was (and probably still is) a paid employee, working for the Vermont Department of Public Service. As such, the title is completely correct. I will admit it might be a bit misleading, but I've seen worse click bait.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear

        Especially since, under most laws in the US, products of the State (or individual States) are ineligible for copyright and become public domain. The VDPS byline is also a legal declaration.

  22. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Resolution of the maps

    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.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. I3N
    Devil

    Reg - This type of journalism ...

    Man Bites Data Carrier, is best left to WIRED ....

  25. Dave Bell

    We're all missing something.

    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.

  26. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Clearly they're overlooking something...

    Prius? Puh...

    The official FCC coverage maps are clearly based on the perfectly reasonable assumption that the subscriber is in a helicopter, hovering at a height of 1000 feet above ground level.

    Signals are much better up there...

  27. tekHedd

    ArcGIS?

    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.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: ArcGIS?

      "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.....

  28. shawnfromnh

    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.

    1. Paul Smith

      If you can't make a phone call, just how do you think the phone company profits?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        The phone company charges you regardless of whether you call or not. Call fees are just noise "because they can"

  29. RLWatkins

    This was a good series of tests

    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.

  30. Marty McFly
    FAIL

    It's bravo-sierra!

    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.

  31. FlippingGerman

    Admirable

    The results are obvious, but someone had to go and do it. Well done Vermont and Mr Chase.

    Also: "40Mbph" -> mph.

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