November 08, 2013

Idaho Senators Call on FCC To Support Investment in Rural Telecom

Joins quarter of the Senate in letter to push for greater certainty for business, customers

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined their colleagues Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) in a large, bipartisan coalition calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do more to ensure that rural America is not disadvantaged or left behind as the commission reforms and modernizes important programs.

In 2011, the FCC developed and proposed a significant modernization of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which was originally created as a mechanism to support the deployment and operation of traditional telephone service to rural, remote and other high-cost areas of the country, where such deployment may not otherwise be economically feasible.  With this updating of the USF program, the focus has shifted from supporting traditional telephone service to high-cost areas, to supporting the deployment of broadband services to these areas.  However, the recent proposed reforms left the amount of support that telecom companies receive too unpredictable, discouraging some carriers from making needed investments in rural parts of the country. 

"Many hard-to-reach rural communities are struggling due to the lack of sufficient broadband services, and Idaho is no exception to this," noted Crapo.  The deficiencies in broadband service in rural parts of the country are not only hurting our ability to compete in a global economy, but also are impacting quality of life.  Congress and the FCC must do everything they can to incentivize, not stifle, investment in emerging technologies in rural America." 

"Rural America and rural Idaho experienced a setback in broadband deployment with the recent proposed reforms," said Risch.  "I urge the FCC to take the necessary steps to bring affordable and sufficient broadband access to our rural areas."

Crapo and Risch, along with twenty-four other Senators, want new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to improve predictability of the USF so telecom carriers can more confidently invest in affordable broadband throughout rural America.

"We remain concerned the reform order is limiting the ability of small carriers to provide rural consumers with the broadband service they need to compete in today's global economy," the Senators wrote.  "We urge the Commission to take immediate steps to re-establish predictability, sufficiency and transparency in the USF program so that these small businesses can resume critical investments in rural broadband."

The bipartisan letter was cosigned by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Max Baucus (D-Montana), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and Mark Udall (D-Colorado).

The letter to the FCC is available online  HERE .