Mullin, Baird advocate for interests of rural broadband providers

Rep. Concerned About Rural Broadband Internet Funding In Infrastructure Bill – WNY News Now


Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) and Congressman Jim Baird (IN-04) led 16 bipartisan colleagues in sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the Commission to examine the feasibility of collecting Universal Service Fund (USF) contributions from large internet edge providers.

Mullin was joined by Oklahoma Reps. Kevin Hern and Tom Cole in writing the FCC about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act specifically and asking the Commission to consider the interests of rural broadband providers when evaluating the goals of the USF under this legislation.

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In Oklahoma’s Second District, less than half the residents have access to broadband Internet, a necessity most people across the country have enjoyed at a low cost for years. More than 45 percent of individuals living on Tribal land in Oklahoma don’t have access to high-speed internet.

Last year, Mullin introduced H.R. 1650, the Rural Broadband Network Study Act, to study the impact big streamers like Netflix and Hulu have on rural broadband network costs and availability. Specifically, this bill would require the FCC to launch a study into the current projected demands on rural broadband networks associated with services offered by edge providers.

Mullin and Baird are joined by Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Pete Stauber (MN-08), David McKinley (WV-01), Mike Bost (IL-12), Kat Cammack (FL-03), Pat Fallon (TX-04), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Buddy Carter (GA-01), Garret Graves (LA-06), Kevin Hern (OK-01), Tracey Mann (KS-01), Jake LaTurner (KS-02), Tom Cole (OK-04), Sharice Davids (KS-03), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and John Rose (TN-06) on this letter.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel, Commissioner Carr, Commissioner Starks, and Commissioner Simington:        

Pursuant to Section 60104 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“the Act”), the Commission initiated a proceeding on December 15, 2021 seeking comment on issues related to the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF) in light of the broadband investments called for by the Act.[1] Upon gathering the findings, the Commission is then directed to issue a report to Congress by August 12, 2022. We write to request that you closely examine and consider updates to the types of costs that are eligible for USF reimbursement.

Today, broadband is considered an essential service and network traffic is growing exponentially. Video streaming services, in particular, are now estimated to account for 75 percent of data on rural broadband networks.[2] It has also been reported that some streaming video companies use technology to detect the robustness of broadband networks so they can deliver the highest quality video to the end user, which has required network upgrades at a much quicker pace. Some examples of equipment often updated include network cards, routers, and switches, but there are additional expenses required for the delivery of video streaming services. 

Rural broadband providers have difficulty raising prices to cover these costs: their subscribers are particularly sensitive to affordability concerns. As a result, millions of dollars in unrecovered costs from video streaming companies are shifted and borne by small rural broadband providers. This is yet another factor that contributes to the rural broadband digital divide we see today.

We strongly request that the Commission’s examination, under Section 60104 of the Act, include the costs of data transportation, and the costs associated with the use, maintenance, and upgrading of the middle mile portions of broadband networks in rural areas. Should the status quo continue, small rural broadband providers and their subscribers will be forced to bear the escalating costs of delivering streaming video. A failure to include such consideration(s) would harm rural families, and contribute to furthering the digital divide in America.

Source: press release