Shutting the Digital Divide in Countryside America

High-speed Internet access has become fundamental to modern life of today, whether we’re on the job, at home, or even going to school. Broadband connectivity can overcome geographic isolation and put a global of information and economic opportunity on the fingertips of citizens in however, most remote communities. But the difficult truth is there is a digital divide that will particularly impacts rural America.

Americans living in urban areas are usually three times more likely to have access to Next Generation high speed than Americans in rural locations. An estimated 15 million Americans, mainly in rural communities, don’t have access to entry-level broadband in their homes. Forty-one percent of American’s rural schools couldn’t get a high-speed connection if they tried.

The particular FCC can play an important role in bridging these gaps, now, I’m circulating two items that may expand access to robust broadband throughout rural America.

Bringing High-Speed Broadband to Countryside Schools and Libraries

One proposal would shut the digital divide in rural schools and libraries by modernizing the FCC’s E-rate program. Considering that 1997, the program has helped link schools and libraries to the Web, but it’s falling short of delivering the bandwidth required for 21st Century understanding. That’s particularly true in rural America, where 41% of educational institutions lack access to the fast dietary fiber connections required compared to 31% in urban areas.

Why does this particular Rural Fiber Gap exist? Fiber connection costs are much higher intended for rural schools and libraries. Consequently, either there is no fiber, or that will level of connectivity is only available at an unreasonably high price. It may not end up being unusual, but it is unacceptable that these realities are allowed to hurt students.

Thus, my suggestion includes targeted updates to E-rate rules to help defray the high costs rural libraries and schools encounter in achieving high-speed Internet connection, particularly the one-time infrastructure upgrade costs that many simply can’t afford today. For many low-income schools and libraries the challenge is one of affordability, so my proposal also includes guideline changes designed to increase the number of competing options to these schools and libraries to ensure they have access to the most budget-friendly solutions.

In July, we opened an inquiry in to the future funding needs of the E-rate program. After our own analysis, and also studies submitted to the record, we have concluded that additional investment is required to provide 21st Century digital learning to all educational institutions and libraries. The E-rate’s budget, set in 1997 and not adjusted intended for inflation until 2010, isn’t to the task. Now, we are rebooting E-rate for the digital age by proposing a rise in the size of the program to reflect the investment required to shut the rural divide and keep American education competitive nationwide.

Closing this connectivity gap will require raising the E-rate spending cover. Now, let me be clear. We now have looked long-term to forecast the particular funding needs going forward and centered the spending cap on those forecasts. What will actually be spent – and the rate Americans will be inquired to contribute – will vary through year-to-year. Most certainly, the contributions through Americans won’t immediately jump to the cap.

I am suggesting to my colleagues that we increase the cover on what all Americans contribute to the particular E-rate fund by 16 pennies a month for a telephone line. Let’s put that in perspective. Over the course of the entire year that represents one cup of coffee or even a medium soda at McDonald’s. Each year.

E-rate is funded by fees on consumers’ telephone bills. I take the fiduciary responsibility to invest those contributions wisely and incredibly seriously. That’s why we positioned an emphasis on improving cost-effectiveness recording. But the fact is that the E-Rate budget hadn’t received an annual inflation adjustment for 13 years. The majority of the suggested new cap accounts for the lack of inflation adjustments, with the rest going to brand new growth if needed.

This is the reality: while many schools and libraries have benefitted from the E-rate program, rural and low-income educational institutions and libraries have not shared proportionally in the opportunities. The investment We are proposing enables the FCC to satisfy its responsibility to advance digital understanding in all American schools and libraries.

Bringing Broadband to Rural Americans

Beyond our schools and libraries, the Commission has been working to re-orient its universal service finance program for rural communities to back up broadband networks in unserved rural areas through the new Connect The united states Fund. The Connect America Fund has already invested hundreds of millions to bring high speed to unserved rural communities, and it is poised to invest more than $20 billion dollars over the next five years. Nowadays, I am circulating an Order to move the Connect America Fund ahead to get these communities the connection they need to stay competitive in the digital world.

My suggestion would bring the minimum broadband velocity for receiving USF support to 10 Mbps for downloads, through 4 Mbps – the first adjustment since 2011. We need to make sure rural consumers have the service they need to support modern applications and uses as we expand networks to the 15 mil unserved rural Americans. And it’s time to move forward to implement Stage II of the Connect America Fund.

Incentive Public sale

We keep steady progress toward implementing an incentive auction of low-band spectrum, that is a critical input for rural wifi broadband network coverage.

Broadcaster participation will be key to the auction’s success. Since we released an information package last month in regards to the unparalleled business opportunity the incentive auction represents, numerous broadcasters have reached in order to us to learn more about the incentive auction. And as the Incentive Auction Task Force announced last week, we will keep on our dialogue with broadcasters in field visits covering every area of the continental U. S. including larger and smaller television marketplaces.

Marking another major milestone, we are now initiating the process by which we will develop the specific processes to carry out the incentive auction. Later today, we will circulate the Motivation Auction Comment Public Notice (PN) for consideration by the full Commission rate.

In the Incentive Public sale Report & Order the Commission rate adopted last May, the Commission rate established the rules and policies for your incentive auction. The Comment PN seeks public input on detailed proposals about how important aspects of the particular auction will work, including the methodology intended for setting opening prices for both the ahead and reverse auction; components of the particular “final stage rule” which should be met in order for the auction to close; and defining impaired marketplaces and how to set an initial clearing focus on.

The public input we all receive in response to the Comment PN will be incorporated into a final Processes PN that will spell out the specific processes necessary to carry out the auction.

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