Yesterday saw a very constructive House Appropriations Committee hearing that had FCC Chairman Pai in attendance responding to Members of Congress about FCC priorities. The questions were wide ranging and only spent a brief amount of time on the actual purpose – the FCC’s fiscal year 2019 budget request.
Mr. Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, used his opportunity at the microphone to urge the FCC to work with the Agriculture Department to make sure that a new $600 million broadband pilot program doesn’t result in overbuilding of networks. Mr. Pai said he has spoken with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue several times in the past year, the Wireline Competition Bureau has reached out to USDA staff, and he has set up meetings with the Rural Utilities Service administrator “to make sure we’re on the same page.” All of those are key congressional reminders of how important it will be to ensure that there is coordination at the highest levels of the federal level to ensure the best use of limited resources and the wisest way for the government to invest going forward.
Using precious USDA resources to possibly overbuild infrastructure in areas where federal Universal Service Fund support is in play, has the potential to not only have government support teed up to compete against government support, but will certainly see rural consumers as the losers in the end.