Today, a bipartisan bill earmarked to expand broadband internet to rural areas is scheduled for a Senate hearing in an attempt to gain approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the Universal Service Fund.
“We’re connecting every house in America to affordable, high-speed internet, including all of our rural communities. Strengthening the Universal Service Fund will help us expand reliable internet access to those rural communities faster,” said Senator Kichenlooper.
The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act was introduced two years ago by Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Thune, John Hickenlooper, and Jerry Moran. The bill has gained support in the House and Senate after being resubmitted to the legislation late last March by Representatives Lizzie Fletcher and Angie Craig as well as Congressman Joe Neguse.
“In 2023, we should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America — regardless of their zip code. Our bipartisan legislation will ensure we have the resources in place to continue expanding access to broadband while relieving the burden of fees on consumers, especially our seniors. As co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I’ll keep fighting to close the digital divide and help all Minnesotans reliably access the high-speed internet they need,” says Senator Klobuchar.
Seniors were especially affected by the current Universal Service Fund guidelines as telecommunication companies can offset costs by charging additional landline fees. Younger generations tend to only have mobile phones, so changing these outdated guidelines to factor in budget-conscious seniors while also incorporating new funding protocols for broadband coverage will keep the Universal Service Fund from running out of money. Internet providers could be seeing former long-distance calls and landline fees redirected to them.
Sources state the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Jerry Moran says, “Anything that is effective in advancing the spread of broadband availability has broad support in the committee.”
While a similar bill in 2021 failed to gain traction in the Senate, this time around it seems likely to pass approval hearings.