Tester Holds FCC Accountable to Increase Wireless Service in Montana

Senator: "We Will Never Get 1G in Montana If We Are Focused on Bringing 5G to Houston"

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today grilled members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for not doing enough to increase reliable wireless service across Montana.

Tester took aim at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s focus on rolling out high-speed 5G service in large cities across the country before bringing wireless service to all rural areas in Montana. Tester asked the nation’s cell phone companies to establish Billings as a pilot city for 5G in May.

“As we work to get 5G across the country, what happens to the places with no G,” Tester said during a the Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “We will never get 1G in Montana if we are focused on bringing 5G to Houston.”

Tester specifically called on the FCC to update its broadband availability and coverage maps, which both Tester and the FCC commissioners agree needs to be more accurate. The map is currently constructed through the use of census blocks, which do not accurately represent the communications challenges in large, rural states like Montana.

Tester also pressed the commission about the uptick in robocalls in Montana and called for them to protect Montanans from these intrusive phone calls.

“We have got to shut these robocalls down,” Tester added. “They are an incredible nuisance.”

Tester earlier this year confronted a Miami man accused of making nearly 100 million robocalls in three months. Tester is not only pushing the FCC to take action, but working to give regulators the tools they need to crack down on robocalls by introducing the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act.

Tester also questioned Pai on the FCC’s inaction to reform the E-Rate Program, which provides discounts on telecommunications services to schools and libraries. Delays in the E-Rate Program have forced schools like Woodman School in Missoula County to wait in limbo for critical broadband resources.

Tester has been fighting relentlessly to bring broadband to rural Montana through his #ConnectMT initiative and recently secured a major investment to expand wireless service for up to 50,000 square miles.