Senate Commerce Approves Rural Broadband Comparability Act

The Senate Commerce Committee has by voice vote favorably reported S. 2418, the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2018 to the full Senate for a vote.

The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), would attempt to close the rural/urban divide by requiring the FCC, within six months of the bill's passage "to promulgate regulations that establish a national standard to determine, with respect to access to universal service in rural, insular, and high-cost areas, whether commercial mobile services, commercial mobile data  services, and broadband internet access services available in rural areas are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas."

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The bill will also require the FCC to gather data on the average speed and signal strength of mobile broadband and broadband internet access service (BIAS) in the top 20 metro markets to help determine if rural areas are getting comparable service offerings.

At the executive session vote on the bill May 22, Hassan said it will help close the digital divide and give the FCC added tools to make sure people in rural communities get a "fair shake" when it comes to access to mobile broadband. A House version of the bill was introduced last year.

“I thank Senators Hassan and Capito for their leadership on the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act and commend Members of the Committee for their bipartisan work to advance this legislation," said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry. "Current law requires reasonably comparable services between America’s rural and urban communities. This legislation will help ensure that rural communities are not left on the wrong side of the digital divide and supports comparable mobile broadband deployment, which will greatly benefit consumers and the economy.”

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.