Working Together to Close the Rural Electronic Divide

During the last few years, the FCC has made substantial progress modernizing its universal support programs to make broadband available to most of Americans. Importantly, the FCC in 2011 unanimously voted to transform the particular USF high-cost program for the large “price cap” carriers into the Connect America program, which supports non-urban broadband networks. This program is now getting into its second phase, in which $1. 8 billion will soon be offered to expand broadband in price cap areas where deployment would not occur missing subsidies.

Simultaneously, however , another part of the universal support program that provides $2 billion annually in support for smaller non-urban carriers – called rate-of-return carriers – requires modernization. Senator Thune rightly recognizes this fact, and my colleagues and I recently produced a commitment to him to take action on this issue by the end of this year. Modernization would ensure that this program reflects the particular realities of today’s marketplace and supports the deployment of high speed networks throughout rural America. We all started this process last April when the Commission unanimously adopted a Further Notice that set forth the principles to guide our efforts in modernizing this program. The other day, we took another important step as our staff, Commissioner O’Rielly and his employees, Commissioner Clyburn’s staff, and employees from the Wireline Competition Bureau fulfilled with associations and others representing rate-of-return carriers to ask for their creative cooperation in getting this job done for rural consumers. I share Commissioner O’Rielly’s vision that we can get this particular done if we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and work together.

I look forward to working with the particular rate-of-return community and my colleagues here at the FCC to fulfill responsibility to Senator Thune. In short, we have to close the rural digital separate so that all Americans, regardless of where they live, can be equal participants in the social and economic life from the 21st century United States. We all share this particular goal, and modernizing this program is usually something everyone should be able to get at the rear of.

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