Source: Proposed FCC rule undermines Trump’s rural broadband directives

Telephone poles along the old Route 66 (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

A source close familiar with the internal machinations of the Federal Communications Commission told Big League Politics the panel, now controlled by Republican-appointed members and chairman, intends to resist President Donald J. Trump’s program to bring broadband Internet to rural communities.

 

In play is a move pushed by the mobile phone industry that reverses the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service rules adopted in 2015 by the FCC in a unanimous vote by all five commissions, by expanding the tracts of land for each license, the Priority Access Licenses, from the current regions based on the Census Bureau’s sub-division of the country to much larger Partial Economic Areas.

Big League Politics has seen the draft of a coalition letter being circulated by advocates for rural broadband to conservatives organizations and operatives as the first step in their push to convince the FCC to maintain the current license map.

Advocates of rural broadband champion the smaller Census Bureau regions because they more precisely isolate out urban and non-urban populations.

The smaller regions also provides opportunities to smaller Internet providers, who have the capitization to bid on the smaller tracts, but not the larger ones that would become the province of the national mobile providers.

If the FCC goes forward with the larger regions, the advocates argue that mobile phone companies have the economic incentive to bid for the larger regions with the pockets of urban density that they want, while leaving the rural communities in the rest of the region back where they started: white space on the map.

In his Jan. 8 Executive Order 13821, “Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America,” Trump directed the federal bureaucracy to drive the expansion of Internet service in the non-urban centers.

Currently, too many American citizens and businesses still lack access to this basic tool of modern economic connectivity.  This problem is particularly acute in rural America, and it hinders the ability of rural American communities to increase economic prosperity; attract new businesses; enhance job growth; extend the reach of affordable, high-quality healthcare; enrich student learning with digital tools; and facilitate access to the digital marketplace.

It shall therefore be the policy of the executive branch to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America, including rural homes, farms, small businesses, manufacturing and production sites, tribal communities, transportation systems, and healthcare and education facilities.

In the FCC’s 2016 “Broadband Progress Report,” the commission said that roughly 23 million rural Americans did not have access to the quality of broadband that is the everyday expectation of urban and suburban American–39 percent of the country’s rural population.