TR Daily Butterfield Proposes End to ETC Requirement for USF Support
Thursday, June 11, 2020

Butterfield Proposes End to ETC Requirement for USF Support

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) has introduced a bill today that would allow Internet service providers (ISPs) that are not eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) to receive universal service support.

The proposed Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act would help address both broadband deployment and broadband adoption problems through the FCC’s high-cost and low-income programs, according to a press release from his office.

In a statement, Rep. Butterfield said, “Across the country, millions of Americans still lack access to consistent and reliable Internet service because the broadband infrastructure necessary to serve all households and businesses does not exist. And in urban areas where broadband service is available, there are numerous low-income families that simply cannot afford it. Quick passage of this critical legislation is particularly important to many rural areas like those I represent in eastern North Carolina where broadband is not currently available.”

He added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the absolute necessity of high-speed internet access for participation in the modern world. My bill, the Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act, will ensure that affordable broadband is quickly and efficiently deployed to unserved households while closing the digital divide for low-income households at this critical moment in our Nation's history.”

The cable and wireless Internet service providers sectors offered support for the bill.

NCTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Powell said, “As America continues to wrestle with the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic, it has become clear that connecting all of our citizens to reliable broadband internet service is an urgent national priority. The Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act introduced today by Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) is pro-consumer legislation that will expedite and expand broadband deployment to unserved communities that need it the most. The bill would repeal an outdated and unnecessary eligibility requirement that unfairly prevents qualified internet service providers from participating in federal universal support programs designed to close broadband access gaps and encourage adoption. By retiring the eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation, more ISPs with a proven track record of operating broadband networks would compete for government support. With Congress considering new strategies to advance access and adoption of broadband across America, now is the time to remove antiquated and unnecessary barriers that deter ISPs from delivering broadband service to every citizen.”

In a statement, Charter Communications, Inc., said, “High-speed connectivity has never been more important and this legislation would have a near-immediate impact on the digital divide, expanding access to broadband and opening doors to limitless opportunity for those who need it most. Far too many Americans remain shut out from the life-changing benefits of high-speed internet, and Congressman Butterfield’s legislation would ensure critical government funding programs are aligned with today’s connectivity needs.”

Sena Fitzmaurice, senior vice president–government communications for Comcast Corp., said, “Rep. Butterfield’s bill recognizes that most Americans receive broadband from companies that don’t have ETC designations, and requiring ETC designations to receive federal funding is a significant obstacle in the way of small and large cable operators, wireless providers, and fiber overbuilders from serving these consumers both during and after the COVID pandemic. Comcast applauds Rep. Butterfield’s leadership in this important effort.”

Christina Mason, vice president–government affairs for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, said that the bill’s provisions would “greatly expand opportunities for small rural and urban broadband providers, making it easier for them to apply for USF subsidies when the opportunity arises. Not only will this expand participation in the USF program to smaller, nimbler and able providers, it will mean more and faster deployment of broadband to areas most in need, shrinking the digital divide.

WISPA said that the bill would streamline providers’ showings of financial viability and fitness in order to receive USF support. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress UniversalServiceLifeline BroadbandDeployment BroadbandAdoption Covid19

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