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Rural Telecom Companies Ask FCC to Help Close the Digital Divide

11.17.2017

A group of 21 rural telecom providers today urged the Federal Communications Commission to help close the digital divide by adopting light-touch regulations that provide companies confidence to invest in network upgrades and expansions that can help close the digital divide between urban and rural households.  

“As executives of broadband companies serving rural and small-town America, we are writing to express our shared concern about the economic divide in our country evident in the slower growth and progress in many of the economically distressed communities we serve,” the companies wrote in the letter, adding that they are equally “concerned by the technology divide separating the digital ‘haves’ in our nation from the ‘have-nots,’ especially in our country’s rural areas.”

Returning broadband service to the light-touch framework under Title I that provided the foundation for the growth and success of the broadband enabled Internet is essential to this effort, the companies wrote. All of the companies are members of USTelecom.

“The Commission should, where necessary, adopt sensible regulations that provide incentives for companies to keep building and investing in areas that are unserved or underserved. The Commission also must target – and properly fund – Universal Service support to small towns and rural America,” the companies asked the agency. “As providers on the front lines serving these customers, we have been saying for years that market-based, light-touch regulation will enable us to maximize private investment and public funding to ensure continued and expanded deployment of broadband infrastructure, including fifth generation (5G) fixed and mobile wireless.”

The companies also noted that broadband has traditionally been considered an interstate service, which is why it is important that states and localities not impose common carrier-like regulations on broadband providers. “Clarity from the Commission on this point is necessary to ensure that providers are not burdened with multiple and possibly conflicting state and local requirements, and to ensure that Constitutionally-protected interstate commerce and competition can continue to thrive across our great nation,” the companies wrote.