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FCC Spends $524 Million for Rural Area as House Subcommittee Highlights Problem, New Public Knowledge CEO

Emily McPhie

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The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced more than $524 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband access to 205,520 unserved rural homes and businesses in 23 states. Providers will begin receiving funding this month.

“High-speed Internet provides access to opportunity in the 21st century, and the FCC’s top priority is closing the digital divide so that all Americans can fully participate in our connected society,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Today’s authorization of funding is the largest yet from the auction, nearly double the amount authorized in the first two rounds nationwide, and serving over twice as many rural homes and businesses. I am pleased that the Commission is moving quickly to authorize these funds to close the digital divide in rural America.”

The funding represents the third wave of support from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The FCC has already authorized two waves of funding in May and June, which are expanding connectivity to nearly 100,000 homes and businesses.

In total, the auction last fall allocated almost $1.5 billion in support of expanding broadband access.

House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing highlights divisions from limited rural broadband

At a hearing held by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Thursday, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., emphasized the division caused by lack of rural broadband access.

“Broadband service is required for modern businesses and it is the foundation for economic growth in today’s global markets,” said Scott. “From improving education opportunities, to accessing health care, to innovative new farming technology, consistent, high-speed access to the Internet is revolutionizing rural communities.”

Scott said that the broadband gap “has become a dividing line between those 24 million rural Americans and all the modern broadband-dependent information and services most urban and suburban Americans take for granted.”

In order to close the divide, Scott advocated for “strengthening effective programs already in place at the USDA and FCC, advocating for robust broadband support in an infrastructure package and even encouraging innovative technologies like TV White Spaces.”

Public Knowledge announces appointment of Chris Lewis as CEO

Consumer rights group Public Knowledge announced on Monday the appointment of former Vice President Chris Lewis as the organization’s new president and CEO. Lewis has 17 years of experience in policymaking and political activism, including 10 years working in technology policy at the FCC.

“Our generation of Americans are living in a time when technology is more integrated in our daily experience than ever before,” said Lewis. “This brings exciting new innovations and experiences, but it also requires smart policy to protect the long-standing values and expectations of the American people. This includes the first amendment freedom of expression, fair and functional access to creative works, and affordable access to communications.”

(Photo of Rep. Austin Scott by Andrea Jenkins, used with permission.)

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