I continue to be impressed with Congressional leadership on the Universal Service Fund front as Members of Congress – again – have made the effort to weigh in with the FCC on the need for predictable, affordable, comparable and sustainable broadband for all Americans. One hundred and ninety-three of them to be exact were on the latest round of correspondence to the FCC. This was due in large part to the effort that NTCA members made in sharing their stories and challenges surrounding broadband deployment in their rural communities when they traveled to Capitol Hill this spring. The slight hand cramp while signing 193 thank you letters was certainly worth it!
Time after time, key policymakers including Chairman Thune from South Dakota, Sens. Klobuchar and Fischer from Minnesota and Nebraska respectively, Reps. Cramer from North Dakota and Peterson of Minnesota as well as their peers, have stepped up to remind the FCC of the critical need for sufficient high cost support – an issue maybe more important than ever on the heels of the budget control mechanism that will cut an average of 15.5 percent of carrier’s support starting in July.
I couple that with today’s announcement from the FCC on increasing the funding for the Rural Health Care Program. Today’s initiative is an imperative step in trying to rationalize and right-size universal service program budgets for a broadband world. There is much more work to be done across the programs in this regard but today’s announcement is encouraging – and NTCA certainly hopes that this sort of thoughtful progress will be sustained and built upon as the FCC evaluates how best to address our nation’s broadband challenges and fulfill the comprehensive mission of universal service.