39 Senators press FCC to address USF budget shortfall
Nov 01 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, along with Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), today led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure its commitment to affordable and reliable broadband for consumers in the hardest to reach communities across rural America.
The senators write, “A lack of resources to meet our [shared national broadband] goals is undermining investment and consumer access to affordable broadband across much of rural America. For this reason, we write to encourage the FCC to take the much-needed step of addressing the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF) budget shortfall.”
“Many of the providers that serve rural consumers and businesses in our states have already begun to feel the pain of an arbitrary budget cap on High-Cost USF support. We urge the FCC to take action as quickly as possible to ensure the High-Cost USF program provides sufficient and predictable support to help deliver affordable, high-quality broadband to rural consumers.”
The effort has the support of key industry associations.
Shirley Bloomfield, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association CEO, said, “We are grateful to Sens. Moran, Roberts and Klobuchar for their leadership on rural broadband issues by urging the FCC to address the USF budget shortfall that is hampering the availability and affordability of broadband in rural America. They, and the other members of Congress that signed this letter, understand the critical role of a sufficiently funded high-cost USF program in promoting broadband investment and adoption. “This bipartisan letter, sent at a time where the FCC is evaluating how to address the insufficiency of the current USF budget, highlights the continued dedication of Congress in making sure the USF mechanisms work as intended to prioritize consumers and close the digital divide for rural communities.
Derrick Owens, Vice President for Government Affairs of the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) said, “WTA and its more than 340 small, rural-based telecommunications providers are grateful for the attention that this bipartisan group of Senators have brought to the important issue of rural broadband. The Universal Service Fund has been effective in bringing telecommunications and now broadband service to rural America, but if that is to continue funding must be sufficient and predictable for further broadband buildout and deployment. FCC Chairman Pai recently committed to address the sufficiency of USF and WTA looks forward to working with him and Congress on this matter."
In addition to Roberts, Moran, and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by: Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Angus King (I-Maine), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Luther Strange (R-Ala.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
The full letter is as follows:
Honorable Ajit Pai, Michael O’Rielly, Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Brendan Carr
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
We applaud the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to streamline and strengthen the federal High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF). This program is critical to achieving our shared national broadband goals and closing the digital divide.
Yet, as we and many others have noted consistently in recent years, a lack of resources to meet these national goals is undermining investment and consumer access to affordable broadband across much of rural America. For this reason, we write to encourage the FCC to take the much-needed step of addressing this USF budget shortfall.
Earlier this year, approximately 160 members of Congress raised similar concerns in letters to the FCC. Since these letters were sent, many providers have continued to experience a significant reduction in support. In the ensuing months, many of us have continued to press the FCC to resolve these concerns. We believe that the FCC is best positioned to identify a solution to the budget shortfall that is limiting access to reliable and affordable broadband in rural communities.
While we recognize that a thoughtful long-term solution to the budget shortfall will take time and effort to identify and assess, many of the small providers that serve rural consumers and businesses in our states have already begun to feel the pain of an arbitrary budget cap on High-Cost USF support. We urge the FCC to take action as quickly as possible to ensure the High-Cost USF program provides sufficient and predictable support to help deliver affordable, high-quality broadband to rural consumers. At a minimum, we ask that you ensure that there is no reduction in funds allocated to or collected for the High-Cost program until you have reached a comprehensive solution to High-Cost funding.
Thank you for your commitment to this important program and the millions of rural consumers who benefit from it. We look forward to both quick action and a comprehensive plan that effectively responds to this crisis.
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- (2.4 MBs)