Lucas Joins Bi-Partisan Delegation In Introducing Universal Broadband Act


Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives Don Young (R-AK) in introducing The Universal Broadband Act.

The Universal Broadband Act will ensure rural Americans have the opportunity to access reliable broadband services by expanding the Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution base to include broadband services, rather than the current outdated model that draws support solely from telephone services.

The costs of building out service to areas without adequate broadband continues to rise, while the current base that contributes to the USF is declining. This has resulted in an increasingly growing contribution factor, overburdening those who are required to contribute. 

“Access to affordable high-speed internet is essential to prosper in the 21st century economy. Thanks to the leadership of my friend and colleague Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Congress is expanding the investment to the Universal Service Fund to ensure all Americans have reliable access to broadband,” said Congressman Lucas. 

Lucas continued, “The Universal Service Fund can trace its origins back to Depression-era efforts to provide telecommunication services to low-income households and high-cost areas across the nation. As the USF’s mission has evolved over time to include the expansion of broadband internet service to rural America, the contribution structure that supports the Fund has become more and more outdated.”

Rep. Lucas, who represents much of western Oklahoma’s rural areas said the cost of the programs supported by the Universal Service Fund is going up but the contribution base is dwindling. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on the inequities our rural communities face due to lack of broadband. Families have struggled to keep their children connected with their teachers through online learning. Telemedicine has been essential for people across the country to receive medical attention without going into the doctor’s office, but even the best of this resource isn’t available to you if you don’t have the broadband capabilities to join a video chat,” added Rep. Lucas. “For the fortunate few who are able to work from home, productivity is often limited by a household’s broadband speed. Our work in this area is far from finished, but the Universal Broadband Act will be an important step in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas. This is more important now than ever.”

The Universal Broadband Act would provide long-awaited reinvestment into the USF that prioritizes building out broadband without over-burdening the FCC from extensive new regulations. The bill would:

  • Codify that broadband is within the definition of Universal Service;
  • Require the FCC to set the contribution rate as needed to meet Universal Service goals and serve all Americans;
  • Require consultation between USDA’s Rural Utility Service (RUS), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the FCC;
  • Create reporting requirements to ensure the FCC is meeting their build out goals; and
  • Prioritize unserved areas, and further ensure tribal areas are served.

Rural groups applauded the move with support coming from the Rural Broadband Association, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Farm Credit Council.

Source: Rep. Lucas