May 4, 2017
Dear Chairman Pai,
As leaders of rural broadband companies across our great nation who count our customers in the thousands or even hundreds, and as members of USTelecom – The Broadband Association, we are writing to express our strong support and gratitude for your vision and leadership. The mission of digital opportunity you expressed on day one of your chairmanship resonates deeply in the communities we serve.
There are few places where digital opportunity holds more transformative potential than in the hollows, valleys, mountains and farm country of rural America. Our small companies have served our nation’s communities for generations. Many were founded, and are still led today, by the same families. We have never given up our commitment to bring communications to everyone in our service areas. This commitment started with the telephone, and it continues to this day as we work to deploy next-generation high-speed broadband.
We encourage you to keep your focus on closing the digital divide, and we will do everything we can to support this important work. Key to this effort is the initiative you began last week to ensure broadband companies can continue to invest vigorously in stronger, faster networks for consumers, free from the bureaucratic straightjacket of outdated regulations known as Title II.
Each of us believes profoundly in preserving internet freedom, and we would never consider acting contrary to the interests of our customers. You can call anyone you want and say anything you like on the telephone. Our customers deserve—and have always enjoyed—these same freedoms online, so we take no issue with efforts to safeguard these freedoms. Rural America urgently needs a smarter and more practical approach than rules based on laws written when our grandparents were stringing the countryside with copper and even cattle wire to connect neighbors on old party line telephones. A clean, modern framework would accomplish two things: clear, unequivocal net neutrality protections for consumers; and equally clear, unequivocal regulatory certainty for companies working to bring broadband’s benefits to everyone.
All too often, our customers are the forgotten Americans who live below the radar of Washington policymakers and are overlooked or outright ridiculed by late-night comedians. As a son of Parsons, Kansas, who has proclaimed digital opportunity the centerpiece of his chairmanship, we know you will never forget these families and communities.
Each to our own, our companies may be relatively small. But small U.S. broadband providers collectively serve many millions of Americans. We are behind you, sir, and urge you to stay the course by moving forward in a way that allows for vigorous, continued investment in rural broadband networks, and at the same time ensure a smarter path to net neutrality. With the common sense, fair and modern approach you outlined, there is absolutely no need to make this a heated debate or an either/or choice. Our connected nation—urban, rural and everything in between—will be stronger for the digital opportunities your leadership is making possible.