Hoeven Working to Help Telecoms Invest in Rural America
Telecoms Vital to Rural Economic Development, Quality of Life
BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today updated a gathering of rural telecommunications co-op members about the work he is doing in Washington to support telecommunications investment in rural America. Healthy, robust telecoms are essential to both economic development and quality of life in rural communities, and they need to be supported, he said. The senator delivered a keynote address at the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperative’s 60th Annual Meeting in Bismarck.
Hoeven commended the state’s rural telecommunications cooperatives, citing the Dakota Carrier Network (DCN), an alliance of independent rural telecommunications companies, for its groundbreaking work to build North Dakota’s information technology infrastructure. As governor, Hoeven worked with DCN to implement STAGEnet, the North Dakota Statewide Technology Access for Government and Education network. The project was a partnership between government and education that brings high-speed technologies to all of North Dakota’s schools and government offices, including state agencies, local government, colleges and universities.
“North Dakota’s telecoms have helped to bring our state into the 21st Century,” Hoeven said. “Education, economic development, modern entertainment – all depend on the robust broadband and other service that our telecoms provide. That’s important because the information-based global economy is breaking down barriers of distance, enabling rural states like North Dakota to compete in the global marketplace like never before. That’s why what you do for our state is so vital, and why it’s critical to make sure the rules in Washington work for you and your members.”
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE
Hoeven pressed the point, telling members that to continue the good work they are doing in rural America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to approach new rules and regulations in a way that treats rural telecommunications providers and their consumers fairly. The senator and others are working in Washington to address some of the challenges that rural telecommunications companies are encountering when dealing with the FCC.
Universal Service Fund
Last month, Hoeven and a bipartisan group of senators pressed the FCC to develop a plan to enable rural telecommunications companies to upgrade phone and internet service in rural America using the Universal Service Fund, which is designed to support investment in rural telecoms carriers.
Hoeven and the senators made the request in a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. While the fund was reformed in 2011, the program now lacks predictability, the telecoms say. As a result, private-sector investment in hard-to-reach rural areas has been declining. That threatens long-standing requirements of the fund that aim to provide customers in rural and high-cost areas with access to telecommunications and information services that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas.
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