On Broadband, Tester Tells FCC: Don’t Leave Rural Communities Behind

Calls on Pai to follow Congressional intent, ensure coverage maps are accurate

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begins work aimed at expanding broadband access across the country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to make sure Montana’s rural communities aren’t left behind.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Tester called for his Broadband DATA Act to be implemented before the FCC moves ahead with a planned disbursement of $16 billion from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) saying that doing so without the information the Broadband DATA Act will provide would result in continued gaps in broadband coverage for rural Montana communities.

“In March of this year, Congress passed my Broadband DATA Act with overwhelmingly bipartisan support to change the FCC’s broadband data collection, verification, and reporting methods,” Tester wrote. “Congress came together and agreed the FCC’s census block level data is insufficient for creating broadband coverage maps. Under this new law, accurate and granular data will enable the FCC to target funding to the areas that need it most and close remaining coverage gaps.”

But despite the Broadband DATA Act being signed into law, Pai and the FCC plan on distributing nearly 80 percent of the $20 billion RDOF before taking into consideration the new, more granular information the Broadband DATA Act will provide. Tester’s letter urges Pai to reconsider the decision, and to use coverage maps provided by the Broadband DATA Act to inform where the FCC should focus its efforts to be most effective.

“I share your sense of urgency on increasing high-speed internet access as it is critically important for rural communities to stay connected and competitive in a 21st century economy,” Tester continued. “However, it is irresponsible for the FCC to allocate $16 billion using incorrect data that gives an incomplete picture of the nation’s broadband gaps. I fear this will turn into another broken promise from the FCC and rural America deserves better.”

Tester’s Broadband DATA Act works to build more accurate broadband coverage maps by directing the FCC to collect and disseminate granular service availability data and use it in any new awards of funding for expanding internet access.

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.