US Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) asked the Federal Communications Commission on Friday to slow down its plans to make changes to the National Broadband Plan, claiming that it would reduce the amount of resources available to broadband internet investment in rural telecommunications. His specific objections to the plan are related to the Universal Service Fund, which was originally established to fund the growth of telecommunications services in rural and underserved areas. The FCC wants to use the money that is collected at the state level – a surcharge to phone and internet customers – to proliferate broadband in areas that are having trouble getting real broadband services.
It's really a sad commentary on the failure of cable and phone operators who have dragged their feet for too long because rural areas don't provide the kind of profits that more populated urban areas do. And this is not just the case in states like Montana, but in places where broadband should have been available years ago like upstate New York and portions of Western Massachusetts…
Still, Tester wants to make sure that the FCC doesn't target the funds collected by the Universal Service Fund in more rural underserved areas.
"The economy is starting to come out of the recession it was in and rural America will still be left in a difficult position if we don't have that broadband investment," Tester said. "What we are saying is making sure when those reforms are done that it doesn't have negative impacts on our ability to have broadband service and the economic development that goes with it."
Tester has written a letter to the FCC's chairman and has issued a press release on his official Senate site detailing his opposition to changes that he sees as rushed and not taking into account state that have large rural areas.
It's a shame that the FCC isn't also working on stopping state governments from passing laws that restrict towns and municipalities from running their own broadband networks…