WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today conducted a hearing to examine funding for rural communications.
The hearing included a discussion about the future of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund and Mobility Fund, components of the Universal Service Fund (USF). Mr. Darrington Seward, Managing Partner of Seward and Son Planting Company in Louise, Mississippi, testified at the hearing.
“The goal of the Universal Service Fund when it was created in 1996 was to ensure reliable communications services for all Americans,” Wicker said. “Since then, we have witnessed unparalleled advancements in technology and a new competitive landscape. Although positive strides have certainly been made across the country, deployment to rural areas still lags behind.”
In recent years, FCC has made a number of reforms to the USF aimed at transitioning the Fund to support broadband. However, more improvements are needed to reach rural areas. In particular, FCC should consider leveling the USF playing field across technological platforms upon which broadband can be delivered and ensure that rural Americans have access to all the advances available from mobile broadband.
“Mississippi is ahead of the innovation curve in areas like telehealth and precision agriculture,” Wicker continued. “Expanding access to wireless connectivity would enable others to also take advantage of these new technologies. As consumer demand for broadband continues to grow, we should work to close the gaps between rural and urban America.”