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May 2, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer led a bipartisan letter with 101 of his colleagues to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today emphasizing the importance of maintaining and increasing high-speed broadband in rural America.

The letter, which was endorsed by the House Rural Broadband Caucus, and was sent to FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai, Michael O’Rielly, and Mignon Clyburn requests for sufficient resources to be made available to the Universal Service Fund (USF) High Cost Program in order to ensure support for broadband deployment in remote and unserved areas of rural America.

“Access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity to maintain the livelihoods of families in rural America,” said Cramer. “Due to lack of population and costly infrastructure, many areas of our country simply cannot sustain private internet service providers, which is why the Universal Service Fund is, in many cases, essential for our rural telecom providers. Without it, and without high-speed internet, the small-town life we value in North Dakota would continue to diminish as families and businesses move to larger towns out of necessity for high-speed broadband. We can’t let that happen, and my letter signed by 102 bipartisan House members demonstrates the vast support Congress maintains for those living in rural America.”

In 2015, Cramer led a letter with 115 House members asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the USF in order to support options for consumers who want to purchase broadband-only service. The FCC’s old rules tied USF support to a consumer’s purchase of voice, essentially forcing rural Americans to purchase a service they may not want.

The FCC adopted USF reforms last year that cut the tie between voice and broadband and also offered small carriers the option of electing new “model-based” USF support. But, the amount of USF support available through the High Cost Fund, oftentimes, forces small carriers to charge more for standalone broadband than most rural consumers can afford and leaves thousands of rural Americans with slower broadband speeds than intended by the model or no broadband at all.

Cramer’s letter, sent today, asks the FCC to continue modernizing the USF program by cutting red-tape and making it easier for small businesses to utilize USF provisions such as the ability to administer broadband-only service to customers without also forcing them to also have a landline telephone.

"Congressman Cramer's message to the FCC is a sharp reminder of the Federal agency's obligation to responsibly administer a program that tens of millions of rural Americans depend upon to get affordable access to the Internet,” said David Crothers, executive Vice President of the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives. “Mr. Cramer understands perfectly how critical it is for rural North Dakotans to have affordable broadband to access educational and economic opportunities, as well as healthcare, government and entertainment."

Cramer serves on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission. He is also a founding co-chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, a group launched last year to facilitate discussion by Members of Congress and their staff on policy issues to address the digital divide that exists in rural America.

Letter signers include: Kevin Cramer, Dave Loebsack, Robert Latta, Peter Welch, Adam Kinzinger, Mark Pocan, Steve King, Louie Gohmert, Markwayne Mullin, Steve Stivers, Lamar Smith, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Jaime Herrera Beutler, John GaramendiKurt Schrader, David Rouzer, Frank Lucas, Jared Polis, Todd Rokita, Scott Tipton, Jackie Walorski, Richard M. Nolan, Kristi Noem, Rodney Davis, Jared Huffman, Blake Farenthold, James Comer, Ann McLane Kuster, Larry Bucshon, Lynn Jenkins, Rod Blum, Collin Peterson, David Young, Tim Ryan, Sean Duffy, David B. McKinley, Paul Cook, Sam Graves, Cheri Bustos, Doug Collins, Rick Crawford, Walter Jones, John Faso, Doug Lamborn, Austin Scott, Jeff Duncan, John Shimkus, Ann Wagner, Darin LaHood, Carol Shea-Porter, Gregg Harper, Mike Bost, Tom O’Halleran, Luke Messer, Tim Walz, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Will Hurd, Brett Guthrie, Martha Roby, Doug LaMalfa, Steve Russell, Tom Cole, Rick W. Allen, Mia Love, Liz Cheney, Chelli PingreeEd PerlmutterRon Kind, Mac Thornberry, Andy Barr, Chris Stewart, Nydia Velazquez, Peter DeFazio, Tom Emmer, Roger Marshall, Mike Gallagher, Michael McCaul, Diana DeGette, Bruce Westerman, Hal Rogers, Vicky Hartzler, Bill Johnson, Rob Bishop, Pete Olson, James Sensenbrenner, Steve Womack, Henry CuellarJamie Raskin, H. Morgan Griffith, French Hill, Bruce Poliquin, Steve Pearce, Joe Wilson, Jim Bridenstine, Jodey Arrington, Ruben J. Kihuen, Evan Jenkins, Jim Costa, Chuck Fleishmann, James P. McGovern, Derek Kilmer, Nanette Diaz Barragan