NTCA Statement on Findings from GAO Report on High-Cost Areas

Arlington, Va., (November 18, 2019)-NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association issued the following statement from Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield regarding the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “FCC Should Take Additional Action to Manage Fraud Risks in Its Program to Support Broadband Service in High-Cost Areas,” released today.

“The record is clear that smaller, rural operators have led the charge on deploying and delivering robust broadband in some of the most hard-to-reach parts of the United States. It is always important to consider how programs can be improved, and the availability of voluntary fixed and model-based options for universal service support are good examples of such evolutionary policies. 

“But, if the best measure of a program’s effectiveness is results, the plain facts show that those carriers receiving ‘rate-of-return-based’ support in the past have done more than anyone to advance broadband in rural America thus far, and that the greatest digital divide remains in the rural areas served by other providers. Moreover, these small carriers have been subject to substantial accountability, both in the form of regulatory oversight, budget controls, buildout obligations, and audits that catch concerns - as well as local accountability from the communities in which they live and serve. All of these measures have helped to ensure that the high-cost program has the lowest improper payment rate of any of the universal service programs.

“We look forward to continued collaborative conversations about how to build upon the many successes of the existing programs and improve them further to promote the deployment and sustainability of broadband networks across rural America.”