NRECA: FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee Missed an Opportunity To Improve Rural Broadband Access

Arlington, VA – NRECA CEO Jim Matheson today released the following statement regarding the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) vote to approve a model code for states.

“Existing federal programs have failed to close the digital divide and the BDAC missed an opportunity to offer meaningful solutions to expand broadband access in rural America,” said Matheson. “Just two of the ten articles in the state model code specifically address rural issues. Instead of focusing on solutions for unserved and underserved rural communities, many of the recommendations focus on issues specific to urban areas where broadband is already available.

“Ignoring the precedent of federal law and laws in 20 states, the state model code would treat co-op poles like those belonging to large investor-owned utilities. The state model code would also cap pole attachment rates in state statute, effectively making those rates permanent. This code, in effect, increases regulatory burdens while giving co-ops less time and less money to comply with those regulations. There is no evidence that such a proposal will lead to better broadband access in rural areas, and I encourage state legislatures to find a better way.”

NRECA believes a genuine effort to bridge the digital divide will:

  • Provide financing support with a combination of grants and loans.
  • Improve the data to enhance our understanding of broadband coverage gaps.
  • Allow all capable providers equal access to federal funding, regardless of technology.
  • Prioritize grants funding for areas with the low population density.
  • Future proof investments by making project funding contingent on providing speeds greater than 25/3.

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The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landmass. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.