Senate to Hear From Telecoms on Rural Communications

Look for Panel to Raise Issues, Including USF Subsidies, Stimulus Build-outs 4/02/2013 1:46 PM Eastern

The Senate Communications Subcommittee has announced the witness list for an April 9 hearing on rural communications and the "challenges facing companies serving rural consumers," with executives from smaller cable operators and telecom providers intimately familiar with the issue, scheduled to testify.

Among those challenges, according to cable operators are not being overbuilt by government broadband stimulus money, and continuing to get subsidies as the FCC migrates the Universal Service Fund from phone to broadband.

Scheduled to speak are Steven Davis from CenturyLink, John Strode of Ritter Communications, Patricia Jo Boyers of BOYCOM Cablevision Inc., and Leroy Carlson Jr. of Telephone & Data Systems.

Just last week, the American Cable Association, whose membership includes smaller cable ops, asked the FCC not to define access to high-speed broadband at speeds so high that it will allow their members to be overbuilt with money from the second round of Connect America funds, the new USF broadband subsidies, reiterating to the FCC in a filing that "areas where cable provides broadband must not be deemed unserved and targets of government subsidies."

The FCC has asked whether 6 Mbps upstream/1.5 Mbps downstream should be the de facto definition of available high-speed broadband. ACA says no because that would "put at risk" cable ops offering 4/1 mbps service but less than 6/1.5.

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