Illustration of a US broadband map with a Comcast logo and three coaxial cables.

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Matthew Hillier can’t get Comcast service at his home in Arvada, Colorado. But that didn’t stop Comcast from claiming it serves his house when it submitted data for the Federal Communications Commission’s new broadband map.

Comcast eventually admitted to the FCC that it doesn’t serve the address—but only after Ars got involved. Comcast will have to correct its submission for Hillier’s house, and a bigger correction might be needed because it appears Comcast doesn’t serve dozens of other nearby homes that it claimed as part of its coverage area.

When Hillier looked up his address on the FCC map, it showed Comcast claims to offer 1.2Gbps download and 35Mbps upload speeds at the house. In reality, he makes do with CenturyLink Internet that tops out at 60Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads.

Hillier—an engineer with 30 years experience who previously worked for several telecom firms, including Comcast and Charter—submitted a challenge to the FCC in mid-November, telling the commission that Comcast doesn’t serve his address. Correcting false data is important because the map will be used to determine which parts of the US are eligible for $42.45 billion in federal grants to expand broadband availability.

Program rules require ISPs to respond to challenges within 60 days, and Comcast’s first response to Hillier’s insisted that it actually does serve the house, which is on a street called Quartz Loop. “The provider subject to your challenge has disputed your challenge,” the FCC told Hillier in an automated email on January 21.

The FCC email laid out the lengthy process that Hillier and other challengers are expected to complete to prove that ISPs don’t serve their homes:

You and the provider subject to your Availability Challenge have 60 days to attempt to resolve the dispute. If you and the challenged provider are unable to reach consensus within 60 days, then the affected provider will report the status of efforts to resolve the challenge in the online portal. After that time, FCC staff will review all evidence and make a determination either to uphold your challenge or to overturn your challenge.

“I expect more from the FCC”

Hillier wasn’t pleased. “I submitted proof from Comcast/Xfinity’s own systems that my address was not served by this provider despite being reported as such to you by Comcast/Xfinity… I expect more from a government body like the FCC [than] to just say ‘go sort it out and let us know how it turns out,'” he wrote in a response to the FCC that he shared with Ars.

A list of alleged providers at Hillier's house, with a yellow icon representing his challenge of Comcast's claim.

Enlarge / A list of alleged providers at Hillier’s house, with a yellow icon representing his challenge of Comcast’s claim.

Upon reviewing Hillier’s address, we verified that it’s impossible to order service at the home on Comcast’s website. Just as Hillier told the FCC, Comcast’s online availability checker says it’s an “invalid address”—even though Comcast not only told the FCC it serves the home but also disputed Hillier’s challenge when he pointed out the error.

We found similar evidence suggesting Comcast submitted false broadband coverage information at dozens of homes near Hillier’s Arvada address and on a street in Fort Collins, Colorado. There’s more on that later in this article.

Comcast admitted to the FCC that it doesn’t offer service at Hillier’s home in Arvada on February 3, one day after Ars contacted Comcast’s public relations department.

“The provider subject to your challenge has conceded the challenge and is required to submit a correction for the challenged location in the online portal within 30 days,” the FCC’s February 3 email told Hillier. Additionally, the challenge’s status on the FCC map website was changed from “pending “to “upheld.”

Hillier’s neighbor, Robert Eck, confirmed to Ars that he also doesn’t have access to Comcast service despite his house being claimed by Comcast on the FCC map. Eck said he asked Comcast for broadband “quite a few years ago” but “the person I spoke with at Comcast indicated they did not offer service to my address.”

“The only two options we have for wired service are TDS and Lumen (CenturyLink). I don’t know why Comcast would claim service into our subdivision,” Eck told us.

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