Fischer leads effort to promote rural broadband deployment in letter to FCC

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) led a bipartisan group of senators who urged the Federal Communications Commission to take additional steps to advance rural deployment of broadband internet and to address its high costs.

Fischer and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led a letter signed by 56 senators to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn that stressed the need for more Americans to have the opportunity to purchase affordable broadband.

“We appreciate the steps taken by the FCC last year to address this concern,” the letter states. “However, we are still hearing frustration about the prices for and the availability of stand-alone broadband. Many operators remain unable or unwilling to offer such broadband because their prices would still be unreasonably high even after the reforms. Other operators may offer stand-alone broadband, but the costs they are forced to recover from rural consumers far exceed what urban consumers would pay for the same service.”

Despite last year’s reforms, millions of rural broadband customers still don’t have access to affordable, stand-alone broadband services because of insufficient Universal Service Fund subsidy support, the letter continues.

“We are concerned that the lack of sufficient resources in the reformed high-cost mechanism may be undermining the desired effect of the reforms and falling short of the statutory mandate that reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable rates be available to rural and urban Americans alike,” the letter concludes.

The senators encouraged the FCC to consider making changes to the high-cost mechanism in order to ensure it can make broadband in rural areas affordable.

Fischer and Klobuchar also teamed up to advance rural broadband issues in 2015 when they introduced the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act, a bill that would provide incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers to expand wireless coverage to rural areas.