Tester Pushes For Broadband In Rural America


by Rebecca Vogt

WHITEFISH, Mont. — US Senator Jon Tester is asking the Federal Communications Commission to slow down on changes to their National Broadband Plan. The plan would reduce the amount of resources available to broadband internet provides for investing in rural telecommunications.

"Our business definitely relies heavily on the internet and everything we produce and everything that comes in is facilitated through the internet," said Great Northern Brewing Company marketing manager Jessica Lucey.

The Great Northern Brewery is wired. Everything from its point of sale system to social media, as well as the ordering of grains and malts are done through the World Wide Web.

"We wanna share what we're doing with everyone and the internet is a great resource to do it," she explained.

But some people in rural Montana worry the FCC doesn't understand. The issue surrounds the Universal Service Fund, a portion of the new National Broadband plan that could be phased out. Senator Tester is worrying that the funds originally used in the USF would be spent more in urban areas rather than rural America.

"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 don that it doesn't have negative impacts on our ability to have broadband service and the economic development that goes with it."

Lucey says her job would be obsolete if the brewery's internet capabilities were compromised, "We would be moving backward rather than forward and I feel like it would be a huge opportunity lost for businesses."

Tester wants the FCC to slow down – he's already composed a letter to the FCC's chairman. For right now though, there's no word on when the reform will be completed, but many businesses say doing it right matters more than getting it done on time.

"We're so much farther out," she concluded, "so we need to stay connected to people and not be in a bubble."