Rural Associations warn of broadband plan’s low speed threshold 

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, May 4 – The National Broadband Plan (NBP) goal of 4 Mbps for universal broadband availability by 2020 will result in severely inadequate broadband service for rural consumers. And Congress should tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to redirect the NBP to ensure adequate cost recovery for rural providers to prevent a new broadband urban/rural digital divide. That’s what the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO), and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) wrote in a letter to Congress this week.

While urban, suburban and metropolitan areas have the population base and economic foundation to support 100 Mbps availability well before the NBP’s goal year of 2020, rural communities lack the population and independent financial means to support even 4 Mbps, let alone a comparable 100 Mbps-broadband service by that time, without a very strong cost recovery system. Without speeds greater than 4 Mbps, rural communities will miss out on expanded opportunities for telemedicine, distance learning, home businesses and high definition programming.

“The NBP’s broadband service goals would also violate the comparability and affordability standards contained in the Communications Act, and would greatly endanger investment, jobs and economic development throughout rural America,” the letter said.

In the letter, the groups credit the time-tested cost recovery structure consisting of rate-of-return regulation, National Exchange Carrier Association pooling, intercarrier compensation and universal service support, with rural providers’ ability to invest in and build the networks that connect the insular and sparsely populated areas that the nation’s largest telecom providers chose not to serve.

“It has been through these mechanisms that rural consumers’ access to services at prices that are affordable and comparable to services and prices received by urban consumers has been achieved, as required by the Communications Act,” the groups said in the letter. “The FCC should now be looking to recreate this success story and not undermine and otherwise ignore what has worked to reach these goals.”

To read the two-page letter to Congress on broadband issues, go to:

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