Recent suggestions to the FCC, as well as proposed legislation on additional funding, would provide RLECs with more and better tools to provide both wireline and broadband services to their customers.
NTCA, in discussions with FCC staff, made a number of proposals that would assist RLECs in their attempts to improve service in rural America. Included were the adoption of procedures to “enhance transparency and accountability in consideration of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund long form applications.”
USF support for smaller rural carriers was also addressed. NTCA urged the Commission to waive the application of the budget control mechanism to certain kinds of USF support, and to review and act on measures to stabilize the contribution factor in order to put critical USF support on a more solid foundation in the future.
NTCA further discussed RLECs’ potential involvement in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP), encouraging the FCC to provide a small business guidance manual to help rural ILECs better understand and implement the program.
Recently proposed legislation, if adopted, would also help RLECs with rural digital issues. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) reintroduced a bill to distribute $10 Billion for broadband in states with unserved areas. In addition, Democrats introduced legislation that would provide another $6 Billion for the EBBP.
The Digital Divide has certainly caught the attention of federal policymakers.