WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), and 46 of their colleagues urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promote the deployment of sustainable broadband networks as the FCC considers adopting new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) proceeding. The RDOF will award high-cost Universal Service Fund (USF) support to deploy broadband service in rural areas. In a letter, the senators called on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to ensure that broadband networks built in rural areas using these funds can keep up with future demands for speed and capacity and to hold support recipients accountable for providing adequate broadband service to consumers.
“If our rural communities are to survive and flourish, our rural constituents need access to services that are on par with those in urban areas. By contrast, it would be an inefficient use of resources to promote services that cannot keep pace with consumer demand and the evolution of broadband in urban areas,” the senators wrote.
“As the FCC moves forward to adopt new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding, we urge you to promote the deployment of networks that will be sustainable even as new advancements are made and are capable of delivering the best level of broadband access for the available USF budget for many years to come.”
In addition to Klobuchar and Thune, the letter was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), David Perdue (R-GA), Gary Peters (D-MI), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Todd Young (R-IN).
The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:
December 9, 2019
Dear Chairman Pai:
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding, we write to emphasize the importance of sustainable networks that meet the needs of consumers now and in the future.
Given that the FCC plays a critical role in connecting rural communities to high-speed internet through the universal service fund (USF), we encourage the FCC to make the most efficient and effective use of those funds. Any large-scale infrastructure project requires reasonable planning that takes account not only of current needs, but also of projected demands over the life of the asset being funded; and the distribution of USF should be no different. For broadband specifically, this requires that networks, built using USF, must be capable of delivering speeds, latency, and usage capacity according to what the FCC deems necessary to meet the needs of consumers over the next decade. If our rural communities are to survive and flourish, our rural constituents need access to services that are on par with those in urban areas. By contrast, it would be an inefficient use of resources to promote services that cannot keep pace with consumer demand and the evolution of broadband in urban areas. As the FCC moves forward to adopt new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding, we urge you to promote the deployment of networks that will be sustainable even as new advancements are made and are capable of delivering the best level of broadband access for the available USF budget for many years to come.
Similarly, we believe it is important for the FCC to be responsible for USF resources and ensure that those parties receiving such support can deliver on the commitments they make. This requires monitoring and reporting once USF support is received to guarantee it is being used as intended. The FCC should also make sure before the auction occurs that the participants in the auction can successfully deliver on their promises. If a party is incapable of delivering broadband as promised, the American ratepayer loses twice over – first for having contributed sums that did not go toward the deployment of broadband as hoped, and then again for those ratepayers who reside in the area that ended up not receiving the promised service. It is therefore critical that any use of an auction to distribute USF support include meaningful processes upfront to prequalify bidders. This should apply to all bidders, regardless of the technology they propose to use or the performance levels they promise to deliver.
Thank you for your work to deploy reliable broadband networks in rural America. We look forward to working with you to help close the digital divide and provide rural American consumers with the same kinds of digital opportunities that many others take for granted.