U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today introduced the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2020, legislation that would capture a portion of the proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through September 30, 2022, for the buildout of broadband networks. The FCC would be able to utilize the funds to support broadband deployment in rural America.
“It is critical that South Dakotans in every corner of our state have reliable broadband services,” said Thune. “The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure that we provide rural areas, not just in South Dakota, but throughout the entire United States, with reliable broadband connectivity. My bill would take an important step toward the goal of closing the digital divide and does so in a responsible manner.”
“NTCA wholeheartedly endorses this legislation and thanks Senator Thune for his leadership on this bill. For years, he has been one of the strongest proponents in Washington for ensuring that every American has access to the communications services necessary for online commerce, remote education, telehealth, and civic engagement in today’s world,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA. “The legislation introduced today represents yet another measure of that leadership and a reaffirmed commitment to achieving the goal of universal service. The Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act would leverage efforts that have already proven effective in tackling connectivity challenges in rural America, and provide much-needed resources to help the FCC build upon the successes thus far of these existing programs to close the remaining digital divide.
“We thank Senator Thune for introducing the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act, which recognizes the importance of ensuring all Americans have access to broadband, especially those in rural areas, and seeks to provide the necessary resources to close the digital divide,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president of government affairs of CTIA.
“Senator Thune understands the value of 21st century connectivity and the power and promise of broadband – especially for unserved parts of rural America,” Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom. “This bill recognizes the essential public-private partnership necessary to deploy high-speed broadband to every corner of the country and narrow the digital divide.”
"Today more than ever, broadband connectivity is a necessity — not a luxury,” said Lisa Youngers, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “The Fiber Broadband Association and its members support the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act and appreciate this effort to bring unconnected rural communities into the 21st century with high-speed access. By establishing a permanent funding source for rural broadband that will supplement current resources and utilize existing programs, this bill has the potential to deliver rapid results for rural Americans in more communities across our country. We are thankful to Senator Thune for his forward-looking leadership and remain committed to working with Congress to bridge the digital divide and connect all Americans, both rural and urban, with high-speed fiber broadband.”
“NATE commends Sen. John Thune for his continued strong leadership on communications issues that benefit citizens, companies, and industries throughout the United States,” said Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. “We are particularly pleased to endorse the ‘Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2020,’ legislation he is introducing today. This bill will help to promote broadband services in rural America by providing funding for communications infrastructure expansion.”
Specifically, RCAP would:
- Set-aside 10 percent of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions for the buildout of broadband networks;
- Require the FCC to utilize the funds provided by RCAP to address gaps that remain in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas;
- Allow the FCC to use the funds provided by RCAP in a technology-neutral manner to address shortfalls in sufficient funding of existing USF High-Cost Programs for the buildout of broadband services;
- Require the FCC to consider the broadband internet access service needs of residents of tribal lands; and
·Require the FCC to produce an annual report on the distribution of funds established under this act.