Tipton Stresses Importance of Rural Broadband Access

Oct 9, 2014 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Education, Small Business

SILVERTON, CO—Today, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) underscored that rural broadband access is critical for education and economic development during an event to mark the near completion of a long-awaited project to bring broadband access to Silverton from Durango.

“Broadband Internet access is a critical tool to build businesses, apply for jobs, enhance educational opportunities and connect with friends and relatives. With robust broadband service, even the smallest of towns can rely on its residents’ talent and determination to compete with the rest of the world. A community without broadband risks being left behind in today’s technology-driven economy,” said Tipton. “There is still much that needs to be done to connect many rural areas in the 3rd District and across America to high speed internet access. Since my first term in Congress, providing reliable broadband access to rural communities is something I have been working on with my colleagues to advance and will continue to do so until the goal is achieved. In addition to continuing to provide oversight of federal projects and contractors to ensure that networks are being built to truly unserved areas, one of the most immediate ways we can expand reliable access is to ensure that as the FCC implements CAF II, the final details live up to its promise of truly bringing high speed broadband access to millions of Americans who currently don’t have it.”

Tipton, sent a letter in August to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the Agency to implement Phase II of the Connect America Fund (“CAF II”) in a way that ensures its true intent—to bring faster, fiber-fed broadband connections to millions of Americans who would not otherwise have access—is fully realized.

In the letter to Wheeler, Tipton wrote:

Phase II of the Connect America Fund (“CAF II”) offers a tremendous opportunity to bring speedier, fiber-fed broadband connections to millions of Americans who would not otherwise receive these benefits.  Thanks to the Commission’s well-publicized efforts, thousands of rural communities are now counting on CAF II.  Indeed, the June 10 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) has raised hopes even higher by more than doubling the promised download speeds from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps.  And because CAF II represents the final phase of Universal Service reform for these areas, its rules will effectively determine—for years to come—how broadband support is distributed in these areas. 

I am writing today to emphasize how important it is to ensure that the final details of CAF II live up to its promise.  I am concerned that if the Commission more than doubles the speed requirements without allowing the appropriate level of flexibility in other elements of CAF II, the program’s overall mission could be endangered.  Increasing broadband speeds is not as simple as turning a dial.

To the Commission’s credit, the June 10 FNPRM identifies a number of constructive ideas that could provide this flexibility, while helping achieve the speedier network goals without exceeding the CAF II annual budget.  We urge the Commission to adopt several of these proposals.  First, the CAF II funding period must be extended from the current 5 years to 10 years to allow adequate time for the construction of the higher-capacity network.   Additionally, when determining whether an area is “served,” the Commission should eventually count only services providing 10 Mbps speeds or higher, rather than 4 Mbps.  Furthermore, the Commission should establish a verification process that ensures other providers are indeed providing 10 Mbps speeds to prevent overbuilding.

The Commission also must establish network build-out parameters consistent with the goal of providing quality broadband service to as many people as possible within the CAF’s limited funding framework.  As such, the Commission should give providers the flexibility to use CAF support to build facilities to unserved consumers in partially served census blocks. 

Despite years of federal efforts to overcome the digital divide, I still often hear from my constituents seeking assistance to bring broadband service to their homes.  The concerns they raise are a reminder of how challenging rural broadband policy can be, but also how important it is.  Thank you for considering my concerns, and I look forward to working with you.

See a pdf of the letter HERE.

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