Wicker emphasizes benefits of Internet connectivity in rural areas during FCC oversight hearing

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) emphasized the need for rural Internet connectivity on Wednesday during a hearing on the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF).

Wicker, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, questioned FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn about possible changes in regard to USF support of wireless services in rural areas.

“There is an incredible benefit to public health from the mobility fund in making sure that we continue to connect wireless-only households,” Wicker said. “It seems to me the FCC must do no harm to existing coverage in rural states when considering future changes in Universal Service Fund support for wireless.”

Wicker highlighted the public health and educational benefits of connecting rural households in economically challenged areas using the FCC’s mobility fund. Wicker added that many rural customers rely on wireless networks supported by USF, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville, Miss.

“I have been speaking for a number of years about the FCC establishing a permanent mobility fund,” Clyburn, who went to Mississippi in 2014 to tour many telemedicine projects, said. “From Jackson to Ruleville, there are spots along the road where we have absolutely no coverage…The citizens that live offside of those roads are extremely vulnerable, particularly those who are wireless-only consumers. They deserve connectivity.

“I am looking forward to working with you to truly connect particularly those unhealthy doughnut holes where there is no connectivity whatsoever.”

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