Congressional Coalition Seeks Rural High Cost Broadband Relief

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Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-ND, recently sent a bipartisan letter to the FCC on behalf of 102 Representatives, asking the Commission to help small, rural, high cost companies with additional broadband cost support. Cramer is a founding Co-Chairman of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, a group established with the express purpose of discussing and promoting policy issues with the FCC related to the digital divide between rural and urban America.

Rep. Cramer, in his letter, requested the FCC to continue modernizing USF policies by cutting regulations and making it easier for small carriers to utilize USF provisions. He stressed that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but is absolutely necessary to the livelihoods of rural families. He pointed out that Universal Service Fund support is essential to high cost, rural telecom providers. Without it, he said, small town life, valued by so many, will diminish as people are forced to move to larger towns.

David Crothers, EVP of the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives, lauded the letter as a “sharp reminder” of the FCC’S responsibility to fairly fund and administer a program that millions of Americans in rural communities depend on for affordable internet services. He emphasized the importance of broadband access to educational and economic opportunities, as well as to health care, government and entertainment.

A few days after Cramer’s letter, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, wherein he discussed, among other topics, the digital divide. He avowed that every American who wants to participate in the digital economy should be able to do so, regardless of who they are or where they live. But, he said, if they live in rural America, they are less likely to have high-speed internet access. “When I became Chairman,” he stated emphatically, “the FCC needed to step up its efforts to close the gap.”

The Congressional Coalition represents an excellent vehicle for every RLEC to make its broadband issues known. If your company has a US Congressman in this coalition, and you haven’t contacted him or her, this would give you a real opportunity to be heard.

And given his recent speech, together with his Kansas upbringing and ties to Kansas Governor (and former Senator) Sam Brownback, FCC Chairman Pai seems to be championing the cause of rural broadband as well.