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Legislators Seek USF Support For Broadband-Only Subs

Almost half a hundred Senators from both parties have called on the FCC to reform the Universal Service Fund telecom subsidy program so that it supports broadband-only service in rural areas.

In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the 44 legislators, led by John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, and member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that if the FCC does not make the change, it would lead to less choice and support for rural consumers.

The FCC is migrating USF support from traditional telephone to broadband as part of its revamp of USF, and the senators point to that USF goal of increasing broadband adoption.

Currently, they point out, a smaller, rate-of-return carrier is eligible for support if a rural consumer buys phone service, whether or not they take broadband, but carriers don't get USF money for broadband only rural subs.

Not surprisingly, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, was applauding the letter, saying there were most of a hundred signatures from House members on a similar letter headlined by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association thanks Representative Gardner, Senators Thune and Klobuchar, and their 131 congressional colleagues for their leadership in encouraging the FCC to adopt a mechanism that would provide Universal Service Fund support for advanced networks when subscribers in high-cost areas [usually rural] of the country served by rural, rate-of-return-regulated carriers choose to subscribe to broadband services only rather than also purchasing local voice services."