NCTA Applauds Rural Broadband Acceleration Act

Bill eliminates ETC status requirement for broadband subsidies

NCTA-The National Cable & Telecommunications Association Thursday (July 2) was praising the introduction of the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act. 

The bill eliminates the requirement that only ISPs designated eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) can get USF high-cost dollars, something cable operators have been pushing for years.  

A Senate version was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.). A House version was introduced by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) introduced a House version of the broadband bill

“Tens of thousands of children in South Carolina have not been able to participate in online learning since this crisis began,” said Clyburn. “Our bipartisan legislation will fund hundreds of rural broadband construction projects immediately. Rural America cannot afford to wait another day.” 

The bill also speeds up the distribution of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is $20.4 billion over 10 years, with the first phase targeted at unserved areas and the second to underserved.

“With cable broadband providers currently offering one gigabit service to 80% of American homes, our industry has the advanced technology and experience to ensure more Americans can benefit from the digital economy,” said NCTA, adding that the legislation will “speed the delivery of federal funding to unserved communities and promote greater competition in the provision of broadband infrastructure.” 

It is one of a raft of broadband deployment/funding bills in the House and Senate driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing need for universal broadband access in a world of stay-at-home work, play, learning and healthcare. 

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act, introduced earlier this month, would also eliminate the ETC fund requirement.