Wyden, Merkley Not Happy With FCC Over Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Oregon’s senators are not happy with what they see as a move to hurt efforts to expand broadband service to rural areas. On Tuesday, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden voiced their criticism after the FCC announced that rural areas that have received state-run broadband funding, or help via the USDA’s ReConnect program, were no longer eligible for new federal broadband funds.

“Limiting access to these vital federal funds could cause unintended harm to the constituents of our states who were counting on this funding opportunity as a chance to improve service for residents and overall quality of life in their communities. Our communities should not be put in the position to have to choose between federal or state funding opportunities,” the senators wrote.

The program in question, the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, will allocate $20.4 billion to connect millions of rural homes and small businesses to high-speed, broadband internet. However, according to the senators, under the newly adopted order from the FCC, many unserved rural communities could be excluded from this pool of federal funding. FCC has not yet identified the areas that might be affected, increasing uncertainty for providers eager to participate in RDOF.

“We are also troubled by the discouraging message your agency is sending to states that are either in the process of, or are considering creating their own broadband programs. Given the FCC’s critical role in connecting rural communities to high-speed internet through broadband expansion and deployment, your agency should be incentivizing states to take action and create their own programs, not deterring them by restricting the eligibility of their communities for federal programs such as the RDOF,” the senators continued.

Wyden and Merkley were joined by Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Angus King, I-Maine, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Mark Warner, D-Va., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Click Here for a copy of Merkley and Wyden’s Letter.

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