StatePoint – There’s no doubt about it, affordable broadband is no longer a frill; it is essential for most Americans. Unfortunately, there are many parts of the country where it is particularly challenging for carriers to offer high-quality services while keeping costs affordable for the average family.
“In our increasingly interconnected society, most people who live in urban areas can choose from a variety of communication services,” says Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, which represents nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies in rural and small-town America. “However, many rural consumers — who deserve the same opportunity — are being denied the freedom to choose their communications options in the same way.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Connect America Fund, which focuses on expanding broadband, already supports larger carriers. However, the current support that small telecommunications providers receive is linked to a consumer’s purchase of traditional telephone service. As a result, many residents of rural areas are forced to pay for services they may no longer want, such as traditional landline telephones, to get the high-speed broadband services they need.
“While consumers should certainly have the right to buy traditional telephone services if they want, they shouldn’t be forced to buy them,” says Bloomfield, who says the answer lies in updating universal service policies to meet the needs of a broadband-oriented world, along with finding solutions that promote affordable rates for consumers, no matter where they live. With that in mind, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is working with the FCC and legislators to give the rules a makeover.
“Rural telecommunications providers need a support mechanism in place to ensure that consumers in their coverage areas are able to afford and receive telecommunications services of their own choosing,” says Bloomfield. “An outdated set of rules will represent an obstacle to a broadband future.”
Consumers can learn more about these issues at www.NTCA.org/broadbandfacts. To take action, they may also consider getting in touch with their congressional representatives to learn more about their positions on the issue.