Senators from rural states are taking a lot of interest in broadband these days. Just one day after a group of 26 senators sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asking him to take action on a Universal Service broadband mobility fund some of the same senators yesterday launched what they are calling the Senate Broadband Caucus. The caucus, which has the support of several broadband provider associations, will focus on “strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country,” according to a press release.
“We believe there has to be a coordinated national strategy,” said Angus King, an independent senator from Maine, at an event to launch the caucus yesterday. The event, which took place in Washington, D.C., was also webcast.
Senate Broadband Caucus
King is one of five senators, along with two Republicans and two Democrats, who came together to launch the Senate Broadband Caucus. The other four were Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R.-W. Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.)
Service provider associations that the Senate Broadband Caucus expects to work with include NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, CTIA – The Wireless Association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, USTelecom , the Competitive Carriers Association and INCOMPAS (formerly known as Comptel.) Non-profit broadband association Next-Century Cities also has announced plans to support the caucus.
The Senate Broadband Caucus press release cites data showing that for every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created.
“It’s not just an economic development issue; it’s also a healthcare and education issue,” added Capito.
“Failure to provide broadband to all areas is a death sentence” to unserved areas, noted King, who likened the work of the Senate Broadband Caucus to that of an earlier caucus founded 80 years ago with the goal of bringing electricity to rural America.
Noting high rates of poverty in rural America, Heitkamp commented that without broadband, “those impoverished will fall further behind.”
She praised some Internet service providers in her state that are offering affordable WiFi routers, modems and computers to lower-income residents.