Increasing Broadband in Rural Areas

In April, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) www.klobuchar.senate.gov Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus and Senator Deb Fisher (R-NE) www.fischer.senate.gov led a group of 56 senators to urge the FCC www.fcc.gov to continue to advance broadband deployment in rural communities. In a letter to FCC Chairman Pai, Commissioner O’Rielly, and Commissioner Clyburn, the senators expressed concerns about the high cost of these critical services in many rural areas.

For the last few years, the Senators have sent bipartisan letters to the FCC calling on the FCC to make tailored modifications to USF to support the delivery of broadband services to consumers in high-cost areas served by small rural rate-or-return regulated local exchange carriers.

The FCC took steps last year to address the Senator’s concerns. However, the Senators are still hearing about the high prices for and the availability of standalone broadband. Many operators remain unable or unwilling to offer broadband because their prices would still be unreasonably high even after the reforms.

Other operators may offer standalone broadband but the costs made necessary for them to recover from rural consumers far exceed what urban consumers would pay for the same service. Despite the reforms last year, millions of rural consumers are still not seeing widespread affordable standalone broadband services due to insufficient U.S support.

In January, Senators Klobuchar and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) www.capito.senate.gov, along with Senators Angus King (I-ME) www.king.senate.gov, Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) www.heitkamp.senate.gov, and John Boozman (R-AR) www.boozman.senate.gov, led 48 senators in urging the President to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative introduced.

Also in January, Klobuchar included two provisions into the “Mobile Now Act”:

  • States need to coordinate highway construction projects with broadband providers so that broadband infrastructure can be installed at the same time
  • Direct the FCC to conduct a rulemaking on opportunities for partitioning or disaggregating spectrum licenses to facilitate leasing unused spectrum to rural and small carriers and also encourage collaboration between companies to bridge service gaps in rural areas
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