Yesterday, Congressman Peterson introduced The Universal Broadband Act…
Representatives Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK), with the bipartisan support of T.J. Cox (D-CA), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Angie Craig (D-MN), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Luis Correa (D-CA), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Ed Case (D-HI), and Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) have introduced The Universal Broadband Act today to ensure rural Americans have the opportunity to access reliable broadband services. The Universal Broadband Act will achieve this goal by expanding the Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution base to include broadband services, rather than the current outdated model that draws support solely from telephone services. The costs of building out service to areas without adequate broadband continues to rise, while the current base that contributes to the USF is declining. This has resulted in an increasingly growing contribution factor, overburdening those who are required to contribute.
“Reliable broadband is a utility, every bit as necessary as electricity,” said Rep. Peterson. “From distance learning to telehealth and the transitions of working from home during a public health crisis, broadband is more important than ever. It’s unacceptable that rural communities have limited, unreliable or worse yet no broadband access. In response to these inequities I have introduced the Universal Broadband Act that secures adequate funding to support the construction of broadband infrastructure in rural and underserved areas without having to increase the national debt.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband access for our communities, schools, and health care providers,” said Rep. Young. “We must work so that those in our rural areas can have access to the connectivity they need to keep their families safe and give them a semblance of normalcy. I am proud to partner with my good friend Congressman Collin Peterson on this critical effort to help close the digital divide, and will continue working to ensure that Alaska’s families can stay connected.”
“Now more than ever, it is crucial that we establish reliable, affordable broadband access to our rural communities,” said Rep. Cox. “Not only is this important for remote education, but also for our farmers and small business owners who increasingly rely on technology for their work. This bill brings us one step closer – eliminating roadblocks and establishing accountability for more efficient rural broadband development.”
“Broadband connectivity is a critical component to job creation, educational opportunities, telehealth and much more. Without access to broadband, rural America is missing out on competitive opportunities,” said Rep. Hal Rogers. “This legislation will help shore up the fund that allows us to support broadband expansion in communities where it’s needed the most for economic development.”
“In far too many communities across Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, families have no access or only access to highly expensive broadband, which is the infrastructure of the 21st century,” said Rep. Angie Craig. “I’m proud to be working with Chairman Peterson to fix that with the Universal Broadband Act, which not only recognizes that our small businesses, family farmers and students depend on reliable broadband every day, but it will start to deliver the infrastructure to power their daily lives.”
“Access to affordable high-speed internet is essential to prosper in the 21st century economy. Thanks to the leadership of my friend and colleague Rep. Collin Peterson, Congress is expanding the investment to the Universal Service Fund to ensure all Americans have reliable access to broadband,” said Rep. Frank Lucas. The Universal Service Fund can trace its origins back to Depression-era efforts to provide telecommunication services to low-income households and high-cost areas across the nation. As the USF’s mission has evolved over time to include the expansion of broadband internet service to rural America, the contribution structure that supports the Fund has become more and more outdated. While the cost of the programs supported by the Universal Service Fund continue to rise, the already-overburdened contribution base continues to diminish. Oklahoma’s schools, hospitals, small businesses, and consumers have benefited from USF funds and it’s past time we address the Fund’s sustainability issues. Our work in this area is far from finished, but the Universal Broadband Act will be an important step in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas.”
“We must provide the Federal Communications Commission adequate funding to close the digital divide for low-income and rural Americans,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez.“Many businesses, schools, and communities in South Texas depend on access to high-speed broadband. In the digital age, lack of a reliable internet connection can mean missed opportunities and setbacks. By reforming the Universal Service Fund, the Universal Broadband Act provides a thoughtful solution and a stable revenue stream to fund long-term investment in marginalized communities and close the digital divide.”
The Universal Broadband Act would provide long-awaited reinvestment into the USF that prioritizes building out broadband without over-burdening the FCC from extensive new regulations. The bill would:
- Codify that broadband is within the definition of Universal Service;
- Require the FCC to set the contribution rate as needed to meet Universal Service goals and serve all Americans;
- Require consultation between USDA’s Rural Utility Service (RUS), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the FCC;
- Create reporting requirements to ensure the FCC is meeting their build out goals; and
- Prioritize unserved areas, and further ensure tribal areas are served.