Tester scores another victory for rural internet access
Senator gets communications agency to ‘re-think’ rule limiting rural investment
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester’s fight to increase rural Montanans’ access to fast, reliable internet is taking another leap forward.
Tester recently got the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay and review a rule that could discourage rural telecommunications companies from investing in new broadband internet infrastructure.
In Montana, rural telecommunication companies provide more than 1,000 jobs and help small businesses connect with their customers. Tester, who took his concerns over the rule to the President, says making it easier to develop and access high-speed internet will create new jobs and economic opportunities in rural America.
“Access to broadband internet service means access to bigger markets for Montana’s small businesses and new jobs on Main Street,” Tester said. “I will continue to fight for reliable internet access that grows rural economies and strengthens rural communities.”
Thanks to Tester, the FCC decided to delay and review its benchmarking model for the Universal Service Fund. The benchmark determines the level of support a rural telecommunications company can expect from the FCC for new broadband investment. Tester wants the FCC to set a more predictable long-term benchmark that will encourage greater investment in rural America.
Tester also recently pushed Montana’s broadband priorities when he met with Tom Wheeler, the nominee to be the next chairman of the FCC. Montanans praised Tester for actively meeting with Wheeler and pushing to expand broadband internet access in rural America.
“The Montana rural telecom industry applauds Senator Tester for initiating communications with Mr. Wheeler,” said Bonnie Lorang, General Manager of the Montana Independent Telecommunications Systems, LLC. “Montana’s rural telecom providers are investing heavily in technology and communications in high cost, low density frontier areas. It is essential that transitions in Federal telecom policy do not compromise the opportunity to recover lawful investments critical to sustaining and advancing broadband access.”
“The Montana Telecommunications Association appreciates Sen. Tester’s continued support of public policies aimed at sustaining investment in advanced communications services and facilities in rural Montana,” said Geoff Feiss, General Manager of the Montana Telecommunications Association. “Senator Tester’s meeting with the FCC nominee is just the latest in a number of initiatives he has taken to make sure consumers in rural areas can continue receiving the benefits of investment in state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure that enhance education, health care, emergency services, entertainment and economic development opportunities for Montanans and all Americans.”
Tester and fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus are also working together to expand the reach of rural broadband internet in Montana. They teamed up earlier this year to call on the FCC Chairman to spread rural broadband through the agency’s Connect America Fund.