The Federal Communications Commission’s latest plan to expand high-speed internet access across the country has come under criticism by Members of Congress who fear over $20 billion in funding might not make it to the communities that need it most. Two dozen senators wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai denouncing the FCC’s new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). According to the senators, money won’t be made available to communities that have already been awarded funding through the US Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program or other broadband development or subsidy programs run by the states themselves. “This decision by the FCC sets a dangerous and counterproductive precedent that discourages states from investing in rural communities,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “This order could be devastating to rural New Yorkers and rural communities around the country,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
At a Senate Appropriations hearing, Chairman Pai said, “If a state has said to a broadband provider, ‘here’s funding to provide 25 megabit per second service,’ I do not want the FCC coming over the top and double-funding that company, or finding another company to do the exact same thing.” Still, the senators fear that the limitations that the FCC has rolled out for RDOF could send a “discouraging message” to states that are considering establishing their own broadband programs. “Your agency should be incentivizing states to take action,” the senators said in the letter.