Don’t Let Washington Take Away Your Rural Broadband.
August 29, 2011
The FCC has proposed radical changes that could deprive millions of rural Americans, including you, of broadband access.
Please help by contacting Washington officials and letting them know about your opposition to any plans that would undercut Internet access in your rural community. Go to http://saveruralbroadband.org/?_c=zygmku1m2t5yi9 to send a letter to your two senators, your representatives, and the Obama administration. The more letters we send, the more Washington will know that rural Americans are demanding the same access to quality broadband as big- city dwellers.
For the last century in America, the telecommunications industry has been guided by the principle of Universal Service. This vital national goal means that the value of the entire network is enhanced by everyone being connected. This is accomplished through ensuring those living in remote or rural areas have access to comparable communications services available in urban areas at comparable rates. Have you ever wondered how your local phone company can afford to bury a line out to the farmer living many miles out of town or even miles from his nearest neighbor? The construction and maintenance of a single line to a remote home can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you might pay only $30 per month for that service. The only way to balance that equation is with Universal Service Funding. In the old days the big telecom companies like AT&T used to help cover the costs to run small rural networks like Direct Communications through an access recovery system, in which they would pay rural companies a fee each time they transferred a call to a rural network. This was done because they recognized that their own networks were more valuable if connectivity was ubiquitous. Further, universal connectivity enables everyone to participate in the American experience and larger economy. In the 1980’s, the Federal Government took over the management of redistributing access funds to rural companies, and the FCC established an agency called NECA to collect money into a Universal Service Fund (USF) pool from customers all over the country, via a USF fee on every phone bill. These monies are then distributed to rural telecom providers to help cover the costs to build out networks in areas where the density is low enough that there is no viable business case for telecom services. Families in Bear Lake, Arbon, Rockland and Eagle Mountain, Utah, have home telephone service, DSL, other advanced telecom services and even fiber optic broadband service in their homes because of Universal Service Funds. This is how we recover our cost of doing business.
Over the last decade broadband internet has replaced landline telephone as the service customers value most. Broadband is the future of communications. Broadband is the means by which our knowledge based economy functions. Cell phone towers function on broadband. People work from home on broadband. Rural customers email, bank, shop, study, work, talk, write, watch video, access news and information through rural broadband networks. Broadband is becoming the most important utility to any home. You need broadband, and you deserve to have the same opportunities as every other American, because your access to broadband will either limit or enhance your opportunities. Rural communities will not grow without broadband access. Jobs will not be sustained without good broadband access. Small towns will die.
Be aware: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a new broadband plan that may impact your service. They are advertising this as a plan to bring broadband access to more people, but that is only part of the story. The real story is that they are going to take away funding from rural customers like you because they have decided people living out in the country don’t need to have the same quality or speeds as people in the big cities. This issue is obviously one that is highly politically charged.
The plan is to ensure that people in big cities get 100Mb service. This throughput was chosen simply because some Members of Congress believe some reports in which the US is lagging behind smaller and more urban countries like Denmark and Belgium with respect to average download speeds. These reports fail to account for the fact that the USA is a vast and relatively sparsely populated county and burying fiber across the great plains and over the Rocky Mountains is more time consuming and expensive than deploying facilities in a country such as in Belgium. As a consequence the FCC’s stated goal is “100 mb to 100 million homes!” That sounds great, but what about the other 40 million US homes, what does the FCC propose for them? For people like us living in rural areas, they feel we should be content with 4Mb service! To restate: The FCC plan proposes speeds 25 times slower in rural areas than in urban areas.
Are our needs any different to people in cities? Don’t our children need the internet for their education just as much as kids in cities? Because of our isolation, and the great distances we have to travel to get anywhere from rural America, we would propose that people in the rural areas need broadband even more than people living in cities. Why does the FCC plan make rural consumers second class citizens? Further, this stated goal of fostering a digital divide is in violation of the Telecom Act of 1996.
You deserve comparable speed at affordable prices. That is the law!
Don’t let the FCC keep our rural community on the slow side of the digital divide.
We as a rural telecom industry are fighting this planned legislation to ensure our customers can keep their speeds. We have made such great progress over the past few years in bringing fiber optic broadband to homes, schools, hospitals and public services in our rural communities. We already offer speeds up to 20Mb to most homes, and now, some people in the government want to take that away from you, because they have no political interest in rural areas.
Contact your congressional representatives! Urge them to support regulatory action that ensures equal access to broadband for all Americans. To learn more about this issue, contact your local telecom provider or visit http://saveruralbroadband.org/?_c=zygmku1m2t5yi9.