Senators push FCC for rural broadband support fund

Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to move forward with a $100 million fund to help support broadband Internet access in rural areas.

The FCC created the Remote Access Fund within the Universal Service Fund to ensure that communications services are available in underserved areas.

“States like New Hampshire and Missouri stand to benefit from the immediate implementation of this important program and the broadband services it will bring to American consumers in the most rural and unserved areas,” Blunt and Ayotte, who are both member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said.

User fees on phone bills funded the USF, which is intended to advance telecommunications services in rural schools, libraries and healthcare facilities. Although RAF was intended to be implemented by 2012, a delay in establishing the fund has led to broadband services being denied in rural areas, the senators said.

“If implemented correctly, RAF could potentially provide the most rural areas of the country, including the most rural parts of New Hampshire and Missouri, with access to advanced broadband services,” Blunt and Ayotte said. “RAF, which the commission has proposed to include satellite broadband and fixed wireless, could help ensure that American consumers who live and work in sparsely populated, unserved areas have access to affordable broadband services.”

The Senators requested an update on the FCC’s plans to implement the RAF portion of the Universal Service Fund.