Friday, February 03, 2017

Bipartisan group of senators from 20 states urge FCC chair to make rural broadband a priority

A bipartisan group of 30 senators from 20 states sent a letter on Thursday to new Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai "asking him to prioritize mobile broadband deployment in rural and under-served areas," Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said in a press release. "Specifically, the senators are calling on the agency to move forward with Phase II of the Universal Service Fund’s Mobility Fund, which is aimed at providing broadband service to these areas."

Wicker, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, said in a statement: “We need to continue moving the needle on broadband deployment in hard-to-reach areas, such as rural Mississippi. Providing this access promotes business innovation and job creation. This is especially important for small businesses, which support tens of thousands of Mississippi families.”

Senators signing the letter are from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Pai, in a post Thursday on Medium, wrote of the Mobility Fund: "Right now, the federal government spends about $25 million of taxpayer money each month to subsidize wireless carriers in areas where private capital has been spent building out networks. This is perhaps a textbook definition of waste: public funds being spent to do what the private sector has already done. Three weeks from now, we will vote on redirecting that spending to something far more useful: bringing 4G LTE service to rural Americans who don’t have it today. I am proposing to couple our detailed coverage data with a robust challenge process to identify the areas most in need of service. And I propose using a competitive 'reverse auction' to allocate this support to preserve and extend 4G LTE coverage throughout our nation."

He wrote: "The commission will also vote to finalize the rules for allocating nearly $2 billion from the Connect America Fund, which aims to advance broadband service across the country. Here again, we will direct financial support to deploy fixed broadband in unserved rural areas using a competitive reverse auction. My aim is to get the best deal for the American people with the universal service dollars we have available."

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