Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday praised the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) efforts to expand broadband access to rural America but expressed concern about high internet costs that these communities are facing.
In a bipartisan letter spearheaded by the two senators and signed by 54 of their colleagues, they noted that their constituencies are facing higher prices for telephone and internet bundles when many only want internet service.
“We are still hearing frustration about the prices for and the availability of standalone broadband,” the senators wrote.
“Many operators remain unable or unwilling to offer such broadband because their prices would still be unreasonably high even after the reforms. Other operators may offer standalone broadband, but the costs they are forced to recover from rural consumers far exceed what urban consumers would pay for the same service,” they continued.
Fischer and Klobuchar cited similar letters sent by Congress to the agency in 2014 and 2015 and praised “steps taken by the FCC last year to address this concern,” but said the issues still persist.
The two also addressed some standalone broadband services present in rural areas that they argue aren’t sufficient because “the costs they are forced to recover from rural consumers far exceed what consumers would pay for the same service.”
The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, to whom the letter was addressed, has made bringing broadband to underserved rural communities one of his top priorities.
Much of rural America still lacks the proper infrastructure for broadband access, and Pai has said he's keen on changing that.
Some of his critics argue, however, that his plans don’t go far enough in addressing affordability of internet for rural consumers once the necessary infrastructure for broadband access is deployed.