“Although I hope these changes will help, you may be right that something more fundamental is needed. After all, if the Order is not carrying out its stated purpose of advancing broadband deployment in rural America, we cannot ignore that problem – for time is not on the side of rural Americans.”
Thus spoke FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in response to a letter from fifty-six U.S. Senators pointing to problems with rural broadband funding and deployment. Chairman Pai stressed his rural roots, his visits to small towns from Alaska to Mississippi, and changes that the Commission had recently made to a “punch list” of items from the Rate-of-Return Reform Order.
He freely admitted, however, in his very frank letter in response to the Senators, that the FCC has not as yet fixed the rural broadband problem.
With both the Senate and House of Representatives (see previous blogs) now actively involved in efforts to increase support for rural broadband providers, and with Chairman Pai admitting that the Order is not working as it should, help should soon be on the way. Whether it takes the form of adjusting the USF budget control mechanism, slightly increasing the contribution factor, or using collected (but undisbursed) funds, more support for rural broadband will be coming. And that is very good news.
What is really refreshing, though, is the candor and honesty of the new FCC Chairman in dealing with what is basically a Commission-created problem, in stark contrast to the stone-walling and double talk that were the hallmarks of the previous Commission.