WASHINGTON - The House Rural Broadband Caucus kicked off the 116th Congress by hosting a Broadband Q&A with Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, and FCC Commissioner, Geoffrey Starks. The discussion, led by Shirley Bloomfield of the NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association, focused on the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, the challenges faced with mapping and steps the FCC is taking to find unserved areas, the need for coordination of agencies administering broadband programs, the role of businesses in broadband expansion, and how to alleviate barriers to service. She then opened up the panel to questions from congressional staff.
The House Rural Broadband Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Bob Latta (R-OH), David Loebsack (D-IA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Rob Wittman (R-VA), is committed to increasing access to quality high-speed broadband. They will continue to advocate for increased resources—particularly in a potential infrastructure package—along with program streamlining and enhanced oversight to ensure these funds are being spent wisely and are targeted to those with poor service or no service at all.
“It’s critical that we bring stakeholders together to discuss the challenges we face in getting service to the truly unserved,” said Wittman. “We have made significant progress, but we still have a long way to go. I am grateful to Chairman Pai, Commissioner Starks, and Ms. Bloomfield for attending this event and to the other co-chairs for hosting this important dialogue on bridging the digital divide. Significant human capital and economic development suffer without access to high-speed internet. Forums like these are the first step to developing the bipartisan solutions that will help bring the untapped potential of hard-working Americans in rural areas off the sidelines and propel our nation forward in the global economy.”
“Over the past few years, our Rural Broadband Caucus has made strong, bipartisan strides toward closing the digital divide in America,” said Kinzinger. “We’ve dedicated over $600 million in resources for rural broadband deployment, and the individual achievements of our Caucus members has further contributed to ensuring broadband reaches every corner of the country. I’m grateful to Chairman Pai for joining us at our kickoff event this week, and look forward to our continued work ahead to keep the United States competitive in terms of our broadband, telecommunications, and technology.”
“Closing the digital divide is one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Latta. “A lack of Internet access makes it incredibly difficult for students to do their homework, businesses to serve their customers, and farmers to use the latest high-tech equipment. There is broad bipartisan support for expanding access to broadband in our rural areas, and the Rural Broadband Caucus is a conduit for discussing the ideas and debating the policies that can make it happen. I’d like to thank FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner Starks for joining us for the launch of this caucus. We have a great opportunity this Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that will mean more access to high-speed broadband in our rural communities.”
“In order for rural areas to attract economic development opportunities, it is imperative that they have to have access to high speed broadband internet. Ensuring access to high speed broadband is one of the most important things we can do to attract new employees to rural areas,” said Loebsack. “I was pleased to join with my colleagues to help kickoff the House Rural Broadband Caucus and want to thank FCC Chairman Pai and FCC Commissioner Starks for being with us. The Rural Broadband Caucus will provide us a great opportunity to continue our fight to expand broadband connectivity across the nation, but especially to rural areas.”
“Access to broadband in the global economy is mandatory,” said Welch. “Gaps in coverage and quality of service are impeding entrepreneurs struggling to survive in the Amazon age. Congress and the FCC must focus like a laser on building out quality high-speed rural broadband service so that all Americans are connected regardless of their zip codes.”