FCC’s misguided proposed regulation would widen digital divide
The Obama administration has done much to close the digital divide, which hits rural areas especially hard. That’s why it’s troubling to see the Federal Communications Commission pursuing a proposed regulation that would devastate broadband investment in rural America.
The FCC says its proposal for the business broadband market would foster competition. But by reducing the rates that providers of business broadband services can charge, the proposal would in fact discourage investment, particularly in rural areas. Without these crucial investments, rural America would find it much harder to build up fiber infrastructure and narrow the gap between our more connected cities and less populated regions.
Rural areas, which are the last to benefit from the expansion of high-speed internet, are still quite dependent on this growth, and we should be doing everything we can to support investment that fosters it. Small towns and cities rely on broadband investment to spur economic development and connect small businesses, so the FCC’s rule could have a significant impact on average Americans.
I was gratified to see nine of my former Senate colleagues – eight Democrats and one independent – standing up for rural America in a recent letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Representing states from Maine to Washington and several Midwestern ones in between, this group urged the commission to use all available data as it moves toward a final rule. As the senators rightly pointed out, their constituents will face challenges in participating in the 21st century global economy without robust investment in business data services.