Manchin, Capito Urge FCC to Ensure Access to Affordable Broadband in Rural Communities
Bipartisan group of senators press FCC to address USF budget shortfall
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined 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.
“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,” the senators wrote.
“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 local West Virginia businesses.
“We certainly appreciate the support of Senators Capito and Manchin in supporting our efforts to address the High-Cost Universal Service Fund budget shortfall,” said Derek Barr, director of customer service and sales, marketing and human resources for Hardy Telecommunications, Inc., in Hardy County. “As a non-profit cooperative serving an area with rugged terrain, we absolutely rely on the USF to expand and update our broadband service to rural West Virginians. Without a doubt, the USF shortfall is keeping us from expanding our fiber-to-the-home network at the pace that we’d like. Sen. Capito has been a staunch advocate for rural broadband expansion and Hardy Telecommunications, having visited Hardy County with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai this summer, and her support with this letter further reinforces her commitment to bring modern, reliable internet service to West Virginians.”
The full letter is below or available here.
The 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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