Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus Launches

The Competitive Carriers Association Wednesday was praising the creation of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus.

The bipartisan caucus was formed by Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

“Access to broadband is essential," said Latta, vice chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee in a statement. "It is a primary driver of economic development and empowers and connects communities – especially rural communities like I represent in northwest and west central Ohio. This caucus will bring greater attention to the need for high-speed broadband in rural America, and help to encourage and spur innovative solutions to address this growing consumer demand.”

The FCC has made it clear that it will not consider that broadband is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis until everybody can get it.

The caucus held its first meeting Wednesday (Feb. 3) and included CCA, which represents competitive wireless providers, in its initial panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of bringing broadband to rural America.

Cramer, Latta, Pocan and Welch will be co-chairs of the caucus, whose other members include Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Luke Messer (R-Ind.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Rob Woodall (R-Ga.).

On his web site, Cramer pointed to FCC 2015 data finding that, using its 25/4 Mbps speed benchmark, 55 million Americans or 17% of the population, don't have access to advanced broadband.

CCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry said, “The launch of the Rural Broadband Caucus is an important step, and I thank the Caucus for today’s briefing and for seeking CCA’s input.  Mobile broadband coverage not only impacts consumers, but also consumers’ access to public safety, education, tele-health, economic opportunity and much, much more.  I encourage the Caucus to work to ensure competitive carriers, especially those in rural areas, have access to sufficient USF support and critical spectrum resources, and I strongly urge continued focus on easing barriers to deployment, especially on federal lands. Rural America should not have to wait for wireless services, and I look forward to continuing discussions to ensure mobile broadband connectivity becomes a reality for all.”

The caucus's launch came the same day a GAO report was issued about getting 'net access to one subset of that rural constituency--tribal lands.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.