U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, has scheduled a hearing on "The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America."The hearing will be March 12 at 2:30. It will focus on the FCC's efforts to boost rural broadband, as wesll as "opportunities and investments to support carriers in rural America, efforts to prevent overbuilding among federal broadband programs, and the next steps to close the digital divide."FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that his rollback of net neutrality rules boosted the kind of broadband investment needed to close the rural digital divide. In the FCC's draft of the latest Sec. 706 report to Congress, it concluded that the FCC has "substantially closed the divide between broadband haves and have nots--the have nots over-rindex for rural Americans where there is a tougher business case, or not at all, for connectivity.The current report's conclusion is based in part on findings that nearly 291 million (out of about 325 million) Americans have access to fixed broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps/10 Mpbs, up 20%, from 244.3 million. While access to a whopping 250 Mbps/50 Mbps fixed broadband was up over 45% to 205.2 million, with rural access to those speeds almost doubling.  The hearing witnesses, subject to change, are Justin Forde, senior director of government relations, Midcontinent Communications; Mark Jamison, visiting scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Denny Law, general manager and CEO, Golden West Telecommunications, and Carol Mattey, principal, Mattey Consulting, LLC.

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