Tester, Barrasso call on FCC to support investment in rural telecom

Senators lead quarter of Senate to push for greater certainty for businesses, customers

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) are leading a large, bipartisan coalition calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do more to encourage rural telecommunications companies to upgrade phone and internet service in rural America.

With too many communities in rural America lacking up-to-date phone and internet service, the Senators want the FCC to reform its Universal Service Fund (USF). The fund, previously reformed in 2011, supports new investments by telecom carriers in hard-to-reach areas. But the recent reforms left the amount of support that telecom companies receive too unpredictable, discouraging some carriers from making needed investments in rural parts of the country.

Tester and Barrasso – along with 24 other Senators – want new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to improve predictability of the USF so telecom carriers can more confidently invest in affordable broadband throughout rural America.

“We remain concerned the reform order is limiting the ability of small carriers to provide rural consumers with the broadband service they need to compete in today’s global economy,” Tester and Barrasso wrote. “We urge the Commission to take immediate steps to re-establish predictability, sufficiency and transparency in the USF program so that these small businesses can resume critical investments in rural broadband.”

Tester recently secured a commitment from the FCC to implement rules that require phone companies to monitor how often calls made from rural America actually connect.

The Senators’ bipartisan letter was cosigned by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

Tester and Barrasso’s letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler.pdf by les_braswell5524