Tester leads bipartisan effort to protect, expand rural broadband

Senator fights for business, job opportunities that rely on broadband services

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is leading a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate to protect and expand broadband access in rural America.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently developing a nationwide plan to reform the way resources are allocated and invested in broadband infrastructure across the country.  Tester is pushing the agency to protect and expand existing broadband investments in rural communities as the plan moves forward.

“Montana needs a broadband plan that offers our rural and frontier communities the same economic opportunities as urban areas,” Tester said.  “Access to broadband service means access to new and bigger markets for Main Street businesses and job opportunities.  That’s why I’m fighting to make sure any national plan doesn’t discriminate against Montana and rural America.”

The proposed National Broadband Plan released by the FCC would phase out parts of the Universal Service Fund, which has a long history of successful investments in rural telephone systems.  The proposed plan would also cut the amount of resources available to providers to invest in rural communications.

Tester is leading a bipartisan group of Senators in fighting to protect those investments in rural communications.

A copy of Tester’s bipartisan letter to the FCC appears below.


The Honorable Julius Genachowski
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We write to you regarding the FCC’s current efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation system. We support modernizing these programs, including making them more accountable and broadband-focused to meet the goal of providing affordable and comparable communications service to all Americans. However, we also encourage the development of a support mechanism framework that does not jeopardize current or hamper future private sector and federal lending program investment.

Over the last three decades, communications carriers in rural areas have invested millions of dollars in communications networks supported not only by universal service, but also by private investment and federal telecommunications and broadband loan programs. As part of the ongoing reform effort, the FCC now proposes a number of new program restraints, benchmarks and formulas intended to make universal service more efficient and implement a new intercarrier compensation system. Telecommunication providers will be expected to adapt and manage their investments and businesses to those new standards and rules. Consequently, we believe these reform proposals must strike a balance to protect the investments that have already occurred and the need to overhaul the programs.

We believe strongly robust broadband networks will lead to increased adoption, job creation and economic opportunity. However, as the regulatory reform effort moves forward, we must also ensure new rules and regulations do not have unintended consequences and hamper our investment in our rural communities. Thus, we request that you seriously consider these concerns.

We look forward to working with you to address these matters.