August 16, 2018

Cortez Masto Raises Concerns to FCC Chairman Pai About Gaps in Wireless Service in Las Vegas Valley, Digital Redlining

Washington, D.C. – At today’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioners regarding gaps in wireless service in the Las Vegas Valley and how the FCC intends to address the issue of digital redlining, a discriminatory practice where wireless carriers deny services to low-income and minority neighborhoods. The FCC oversight hearing also addressed the need for improvements to the cellular maps the agency produces to distribute federal support.

Cortez Masto raised concerns about gaps and weak spots in wireless service in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, the largest and most populated urban community in Southern Nevada. Cortez Masto asked, “How do we address the challenges that we see here where there are people living in urban areas where they cannot access the internet or they are having dropped calls?” 

FCC Chairman Pai offered three solutions: more spectrum for carriers, infrastructure to make it easier to deploy towers and small cells, and smarter subsidy programs. Commissioner Rosenworcel responded, saying that the issue demonstrates the need for better mapping and expanding the use of signal boosters to help urban dead zones. 

On digital redlining, Cortez Masto asked, “What can the FCC do about this and ensure that you’re addressing this issue where wireless companies do not solely benefit the neighborhoods that feed their bottom line and getting their service to neighborhoods that actually need it?”

Chairman Pai said he has made a proposal to address the issue by targeting geographical areas that do not have access to broadband and granting tax incentives for companies to build wireless infrastructure in those areas. Commissioner Rosenworcel argued that the FCC should open a proceeding and seek stories from those who lack broadband wireless service not just in rural areas, but those in urban areas that lack modern broadband services.