Big Things Are Happening in Rural Broadband Expansion

Chairman Ajit Pai visiting OTELCO's Maine office to discuss rural broadband expansion.

Chairman Ajit Pai visited OTELCO during his recent tour of New England.

Just last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai traveled to Maine to discuss his passion for rural broadband expansion, and his goal of “closing the digital divide.” During his visit, the Chairman stopped by OTELCO’s New Gloucester, Maine office to discuss the company’s role in the development of rural connectivity.

Last week also marked the unveiling of the USDA’s new broadband webpage. The new website includes lots of broadband resources, including information on funding and opportunities to help shape future programs.

Washington is clearly making an effort to improve rural broadband expansion, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission have both been spearheading these improvements. In this week’s blog, OTELCO looks into how both parties are working to connect the country.

The USDA Launches a New Broadband Webpage

In last week’s blog, we mentioned the USDA’s rollout of a new broadband webpage. This rollout is just the latest in the USDA’s investment in “rural e-connectivity”.

According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, “Rural high-speed broadband e-Connectivity is as important for economic development as rail, roads, bridges, and airports – and as vital as the bailouts of rural telephone networks were decades ago.”

This past March, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service was given $600 million of the government’s 1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. This came after the president’s 2017 establishment of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, designed to “promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.”

Information on this new wave of funding and how it came to be can be found on their new webpage, as well as:

  • Information on additional USDA programs offering more than $700 million a year in rural broadband expansion.
  • Opportunities to provide feedback on the design and requirements of their new Pilot Program.
  • FAQs on everything from the definition of “e-connectivity” to grant application. 

Explore the New Website for Yourself

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Visit to OTELCO

Like Secretary Perdue, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also strongly believes in rural broadband expansion. Chairman Pai has recently set off on his Digital Opportunity Road Trip, where he travels the country “to see first-hand how broadband connectivity affects communities and residents.”

OTELCO was lucky enough to sit down with Chairman Pai as he toured the state of Maine, after a speaking engagement at a fundraiser for the Maine Heritage Policy Center in Portland. The Chairman stopped by OTELCO to discuss our success in deploying rural broadband using the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Model (ACAM).

OTELCO President and CEO Rob Souza reviews OTELCO's successful rural broadband expansion projects.

OTELCO President and CEO Rob Souza reviews OTELCO’s successful rural broadband expansion projects.

ACAM is a model that allocates funds from the Universal Service Fund (USF) for rural broadband deployment by Rate of Return Carriers. Essentially, what ACAM does is supplement the cost of rural broadband expansion, so that it is more affordable for them to build in lower income areas.

OTELCO has used ACAM funding for several successful builds, including some of our most recent builds in Maine, Missouri, and Alabama. That is why we were so excited for the opportunity to share our experience with Chairman Pai. It is with the help of the FCC that we have been able to bring the Internet to thousands of Americans across the country. As the chairman said in our meeting “at the end of the day it’s about getting folks on the grid.”

 

Staying Connected

If you would like to learn more about rural broadband expansion, and how to get your community “on the grid” we would love to be part of that conversation with you.  Whether we’re your local provider or not, we’re happy to share our experiences.  Why not schedule a consultation with one of our broadband experts today.

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