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Senators call for reliable broadband in rural areas

Lack of resources is impacting access in many parts of rural America.

A bipartisan group of senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure its commitment to affordable and reliable broadband for consumers in the hardest-to-reach communities across rural America. 

“A lack of resources to meet our [shared national broadband] goals is undermining investment and consumer access to affordable broadband across much of rural America,” the senators write in their letter. “For this reason, we write to encourage the FCC to take the much-needed step of addressing the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF) budget shortfall.”

“Many of the providers that serve rural consumers and businesses in our states have already begun to feel the pain of an arbitrary budget cap on High-Cost USF support. We urge the FCC to take action as quickly as possible to ensure the High-Cost USF program provides sufficient and predictable support to help deliver affordable, high-quality broadband to rural consumers.” 

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is leading the effort, along with Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The effort has the support of key industry associations.

Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, thanked the senators for their support.

“This bipartisan letter, sent at a time where the FCC is evaluating how to address the insufficiency of the current USF budget, highlights the continued dedication of Congress in making sure the USF mechanisms work as intended to prioritize consumers and close the digital divide for rural communities,” Bloomfield said.

Derrick Owens, Vice President for Government Affairs of the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA), said this is an important issue for the Alliance and its more than 340 rural-based telecommunications providers.

“The Universal Service Fund has been effective in bringing telecommunications and now broadband service to rural America, but if that is to continue funding must be sufficient and predictable for further broadband buildout and deployment,” Owens said.

Other senators signing the bill include: 

  • Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.),
  • John Barrasso (R-Wyo.),
  • Michael Bennet (D-Colo.),
  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.),
  • John Boozman (R-Ark.),
  • Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.),
  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.),
  • Bill Cassidy (R-La.),
  • Susan Collins (R-Maine),
  • John Cornyn (R-Texas),
  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.),
  • Tom Cotton (R-Ark.),
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho),
  • Steve Daines (R-Mont.),
  • Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.),
  • Richard Durbin (D-Ill.),
  • Al Franken (D-Minn.),
  • Cory Gardner (R-Colo.),
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.),
  • Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa),
  • Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.),
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.),
  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.),
  • Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.),
  • Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.),
  • Angus King (I-Maine),
  • James Lankford (R-Okla.),
  • Joe Manchin (D-W.V.),
  • Patty Murray (D-Wash.),
  • James Risch (R-Idaho),
  • Mike Rounds (R-S.D.),
  • Tim Scott (R-S.C.),
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.),
  • Luther Strange (R-Ala.),
  • Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and
  • Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

Source: Sen. Pat Roberts

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