In a terrific step forward for NTCA members and RLECs across the country, FCC Chairman Pai responded this week to the 130 Members of the House who wrote to him this May regarding their concerns on the persistent USF insufficiency. The Chairman replied that he aims “to circulate an order ensuring adequate and efficient funding for rural broadband deployment later this year.” He reviewed the steps that have already been taken, including devoting over $500 million to increasing broadband deployment by small carriers in rural communities impacted by the budget control mechanism that has been in place and noted, “I agree with you that more must be done if we’re going to extend digital opportunity to all Americans.” And in words that warm my heart, the Chairman noted his commitment to finding a long-term solution to ensure that sufficient and predictable support over the long term is established and that the Commission staff is carefully reviewing the record in the proceeding on the table and that he “…aim[s] to circulate an order ensuring adequate and efficient funding for rural broadband deployment later this year.”
Getting stability, predictability and sufficient funding for rural broadband deployment would go a long way to Chairman Pai’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and ensure that all Americans, regardless of where they live, have access to comparable services. And, it would be a nice way to end the year! Kudos to the Members of Congress who cared enough to weigh in and to their community based broadband providers who shared their stories of broadband deployment and challenges they face in serving their communities.