NTCA Statements on E-Rate Modernization, Rural Broadband Speed Increase

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hillary Crowder, 703-351-2086, hcrowder@ntca.org 

Arlington, Va. (December 11, 2014)—NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association today issued the following statements regarding the FCC’s rulemakings on E-Rate modernization and an increase in rural broadband speeds for carriers receiving Connect America Fund support:

Statement from NTCA Senior Vice President of Policy Michael Romano regarding the adoption of an order regarding E-Rate modernization:

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association has long been a proponent of ensuring that every school and library—rural and urban—should have sustainable access to robust and affordable broadband. We have also long been proponents of filling “rural fiber gaps” where they actually exist, premised upon first accurately identifying where those gaps exist and subject to ensuring that those schools and libraries that are already connected can stay connected to robust and affordable broadband. NTCA has further cautioned the commission time and again that, especially in rural areas, building duplicative networks and allowing consortia to deploy dark fiber of their own even where fiber is already in place will undermine existing access both for schools and libraries and for the broader community, potentially wasting valuable universal service resources and exacerbating—rather than solving —the “homework gap” about which many are rightly concerned. We therefore eagerly await the details of today’s order, and we hope that adequate safeguards will be strictly enforced to ensure E-Rate resources are targeted to where they are needed most to solve localized problems of availability or affordability. 

“This E-Rate item also addresses several other issues of interest to NTCA, and here too we anxiously await the details of the order. We understand, for example, that the item will correct a flaw in an earlier item, granting reconsideration sought by NTCA, the Utah Rural Telecom Association, and the State E-Rate Coordinators’ Alliance with respect to how schools and libraries will be classified as rural or urban. NTCA was pleased to work with a diverse group of stakeholders who all recognized the substantial implications of the earlier change on rural schools and libraries, and we are hopeful that today’s order indeed corrects for this flaw. 

“Finally, NTCA is interested in the commission’s indication that a $1.5 billion expansion of the E-Rate budget translates to a “small” cost to consumers. The high-cost program in 2015 will run on the same budget that it had in 2011 without even minor inflationary adjustments, despite the fact that the National Broadband Plan identified the need for billions of dollars more to achieve universal access in rural areas in a broadband era. We have long advocated that all aspects of universal service, including E-Rate, are essential, and we hope that today’s budget change in this one important portion of the universal service umbrella—a change that translates to “less than a large soda at a fast food restaurant or a cup of coffee”—will serve as a springboard for meaningful future conversations about how comparable steps might be taken to achieve the budgets needed to preserve and advance universal service in rural areas as well.” 

Statement from NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield regarding the adoption of an order increasing rural broadband speeds under the Connect America Fund (CAF):

“The FCC appears to have taken significant steps in today’s order toward implementation of Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II in those areas served by larger, price cap-regulated carriers. With these steps, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is hopeful that the commission will now be able to devote more time in early 2015 to updates to the universal service support mechanisms that enable access to high-quality and affordable voice and broadband services by consumers in areas served by smaller carriers such as those in NTCA’s membership. We have been engaged in productive discussions with the commission and staff for over two years now with respect to such proposals, and over 130 members of Congress have written to the commission in the past year urging the agency to move forward quickly on the kinds of changes sought by NTCA. The record is unmistakably clear that targeted, carefully defined changes of the sort proposed by NTCA offer the best and only near-term option for updating these important support mechanisms—and that consumer choice, technological evolution, and competition will all benefit through the adoption of these proposals. While longer-term options for reform may require further consideration, with today’s important steps toward implementation of CAF Phase II, we now look forward to working with the commission and other interested stakeholders to move forward as quickly as possible to finalize these much-needed near-term updates.”


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at www.ntca.org.