The FCC has a unique opportunity to ensure that tens of thousands of rural consumers throughout the United States gain access to the broadband services they lack today – broadband that all Americans need in order to participate fully in today’s society. The Commission should not let this opportunity slip away.
If the Commission acts before the end of this year to authorize additional funding for the A-CAM program it initiated in early 2017, a minimum of over 70,000 unserved and underserved consumers in some of the most rural, high-cost areas of the country would be guaranteed access to broadband service at speeds of at least 10/1 Mbps.
There is no legitimate reason for the Commission to delay in authorizing additional funding. The mechanism to distribute the funds is already in place. The rural carriers that are participating in the A-CAM program are already upgrading their networks and are eager to further extend the reach of those networks to additional rural customers. Indeed, 219 of those carriers operating in 20 states have recently written to the Commission urging immediate action to authorize additional funding. To date, a half dozen members of Congress and other elected officials agree and have weighed in in support of Commission action.
There is no question that access to broadband is critical to economic growth and productivity in rural areas. The lack of broadband is the number one challenge many rural communities face in recruiting businesses and retaining residents. Moreover, further extending the reach of broadband in rural communities through the A-CAM plan would enable children in those communities to do their homework at home, seniors to age in place, and would result in healthcare savings for the chronically ill who could be remotely monitored at home.
It is doubtful there is a more efficient use of universal service funds than the A-CAM program, which puts those funds to immediate use in deploying broadband to Americans who have been left behind. We call on the FCC to act on a bipartisan basis to authorize additional funding of the A-CAM program by December 31, 2017.