02.09.17

Peters Renews Efforts to Close the Rural Broadband Gap

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) joined a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt a Universal Service Fund (USF) Mobility Fund Phase II (MFII), which is aimed at providing broadband service to rural and underserved areas. The Senators sent a letter to new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calling for the agency to prioritize new mobile broadband deployment in these areas as well as preserve and upgrade mobile broadband where it is currently available. Last summer, Peters and his colleagues sent a similar letter to then-FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler.

“Reliable high-speed mobile broadband is critical to advancing telehealth services, precision agriculture, economic opportunities, education, public safety, and an ever growing list of new innovations and applications,” said the Senators. “It is necessary for our constituents, living in some of the most remote and rural areas, to participate in today’s digital economy.”

According to the FCC, 87 percent of rural Americans - 52.2 million people - lack access to mobile broadband with minimum advertised speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, compared to 45 percent of those living in urban areas. According to Connect Michigan, 44 percent of working-age Michigan adults rely on the Internet to seek or apply for jobs, while 22% go online to further their education by taking online classes.

The full text of the letter can be found here or below:

The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Pai,

As you begin your tenure as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), we urge your continued focus on and support ensuring access to mobile broadband services in rural America and closing the digital divide as a top priority for the Commission. 

We appreciate your keen understanding of the benefits that mobile broadband brings to rural America, allowing “anyone, anywhere [to] innovate and succeed.”  Reliable high-speed mobile broadband is critical to advancing telehealth services, precision agriculture, economic opportunities, education, public safety, and an ever growing list of new innovations and applications.  It is necessary for our constituents, living in some of the most remote and rural areas, to participate in today’s digital economy. 

We support your efforts to close the digital divide for low-income and rural Americans.  Going forward, these efforts must include removing barriers to broadband deployment and promoting innovation, as well as adopting a Universal Service Fund (USF) Mobility Fund Phase II (MFII). 

As you move forward with MFII, we ask that your efforts help to incent wireless carriers to preserve, upgrade, and expand mobile broadband in rural America, rather than degrade and reduce competition in areas that need it most.  Competing in a capital-intensive environment, wireless carriers need long-term certainty of ongoing support to invest, deploy, maintain, and update their networks that provide vital mobile broadband services in rural areas.  As the best example, certainty should come in the form of sufficient and predictable USF support in both the implementation of MFII and the transition away from legacy support mechanisms over the next several years.

Under your leadership, we urge the Commission to meet its statutory directive and ensure that the latest mobile broadband services are available across the nation, especially in rural America, and we thank you for your attention to this critically important issue.