Tester expands Internet access for rural Montana families and businesses

After Montana tour with Tester, FCC Chairman streamlines efforts to support rural Internet providers and establish standalone broadband

(Missoula, Mont.)-Senator Jon Tester today announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will expand Internet access for rural Montana families and small businesses.

Just five months after Tester brought FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to Montana, the FCC will modernize its Universal Service Fund (USF), which provides support to broadband carriers building Internet infrastructure in rural areas. USF invests approximately $100 million annually in rural broadband infrastructure across Montana.

“I applaud the FCC’s decision to roll-back outdated regulations and expand internet access for Montana families and small businesses,” Tester said. “This decision will save folks money, provide more certainty to Internet providers, increase consumer choices and ensure rural communities are better connected.”

The FCC’s order provides rural carriers certainty, and provides them an improved path to aggressively improve Internet access in speeds in Montana.

The order allows rural consumers to purchase standalone broadband services without forcing them to additionally purchase unwanted landline telephone services. Until now, the FCC’s USF only supported investments to telecommunications carriers who provide telephone services and broadband to rural areas.

In January, Tester pushed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to streamline the USF by allowing participating telecommunications providers to offer standalone broadband services. Tester’s call to modernize the USF is expected to save money and increase choices for rural Montanans.

In October, Tester brought Chairman Wheeler to Montana to see firsthand the connectivity challenges facing rural Montanans. While in Montana, Wheeler met with local telecommunications providers who urged him to enhance the USF by making it available for standalone broadband services.