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Trump FCC Seeks Cap on Rural Broadband Funding

Governor Kristi Noem should go easy on the Aberdeen legislators who are trying to block her grants for rural broadband. Those good Republicans are just following the Trump FCC chief Ajit Pai’s lead in trying to throttle funding for bringing rural info-structure into the 21st century:

The Federal Communications Commission has preliminarily voted to cap spending on the FCC’s Universal Service programs, which deploy broadband to poor people and to rural and other underserved areas.

The party-line vote was criticized by the FCC’s two Democrats, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel saying the Republican plan “is fundamentally inconsistent with this agency’s high-minded rhetoric about closing the digital divide” and “at odds with our most basic statutory duty to promote and advance universal service.”

…The proposed cap could also put a tighter squeeze on the so-called high-cost program that pays ISPs to deploy broadband in rural areas via the FCC’s Connect America Fund. The FCC says that high-cost disbursements were $4.685 billion in 2018, which is more than the budget of $4.5 billion [Jon Brodkin, “Ajit Pai Works to Cap Funding for Rural and Poor People, Gets GOP Backing,” Ars Technica, 2019.06.04].

Capping Universal Service programs appears to run counter to the FCC’s legal mandate to make sure everyone, including rural folks, gets equitable access to modern communications technology:

The main concern that has been raised with the NPRM is that it is at odds with the FCC’s statutory duty to promote and advance universal service, and may ultimately hinder the progress to close the digital divide.

Public Knowledge opposes capping the USF:

The Commission is obligated to ensure that digitally redlined communities, tribal communities, rural communities, and low-income consumers have the resources necessary for equitable access to education, telehealth services, and economic opportunities. The proposal to cap the USF program is just another signal that the Commission’s current leadership has chosen to severely weaken the FCC’s long standing universal service mission.

John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB Coalition), said:

The FCC’s proposal to adopt an overall cap on the USF is unfortunate, counter-productive, and contrary to congressional intent. Congress directed the FCC to make ‘sufficient’ funding available to meet our nation’s universal service goals, not to prohibit spending that is necessary to reach those goals [Robbie McBeath, “FCC Proposes Capping Fund Used to Close the Digital Divide,” Benton: Weekly Digest, 2019.06.07].

Trump is spending less to wire up rural America; the only reason we’ve kept making progress is momentum from Obama-era investments:

USF spending has decreased slightly under Pai’s watch. It was $8.7 billion in 2016, during the Obama administration, rose to $8.9 billion in 2017 during Pai’s first year, and dropped to $8.3 billion in 2018. Much of the spending was locked in via multi-year programs that began before Pai took over [Brodkin, 2019.06.07].

The Trump regime insists it has not forgotten rural America. Yet his rural broadband budget cap is one more example of Trump remembering us just long enough to slap us again. If Governor Noem wants to ensure that federal dollars keep coming to support her push for better broadband in South Dakota, she’d better get on the horn to her good friend in the White House and tell him to be more like Obama in caring about rural America.


  1. Eve Fisher 2019-06-12 17:40

    The GOP will always pay for wars, cut taxes on the rich, and promise us groundlings two things (1) that they are the party of morality and (2) that they really, really, really will take care of us. Sometime. Later. Maybe. Not.

  2. leslie 2019-06-12 18:37

    Interesting that trump has munchkin searching the budget looking for things to cut that he, the 1% and souless GOP don’t care about.

  3. mike from iowa 2019-06-12 18:51

    The GOP will always pay for wars,

    R U on glue? Let’s see your proof wingnuts ever pay for wars.

  4. mike from iowa 2019-06-12 19:57

    Deficit hit a record 208 billion this month. Seems like them there taxcuts for the koch bros just aren’t bringing in the revenue to offset Drumpf’s reckless spending habits.

  5. Debbo 2019-06-12 21:31

    “the FCC’s statutory duty”

    Um, they’re part of Wilted Weenie’s deministration. Hence, silly things like “statutory duty” are simply punchlines to really cruel jokes.

  6. jerry 2019-06-13 21:40

    mfi “June Gloom” A reading of the economy from Morgan Stanley is signaling “June gloom.”

    Morgan Stanley’s Business Conditions Index, which captures turning points in the economy, fell by 32 points in June, to a level of 13 from a level of 45 in May. This drop is the largest one-month decline on record and the lowest level since December 2008 during the financial crisis, according to the firm.”

    It looks like the republican led recession will start about September. Kinda seems familiar to the one in 2008 when the bottom fell out. All we need now is a shoot’m up with Iran to cook our goose. One thing will keep us out of it all is to impeach the criminal element in the white house.

  7. jerry 2019-06-13 21:42

    trumpers want to eliminate broadband to rural areas to keep the rubes under control. Last thing they need are people smart enough to put the dots together to see just how badly they have been screwed by republicans.

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