A Door Cracks Open for Rural America Through the Introduction of Legislation to Create the Office of Rural Telecommunications Within the FCC

On April 12, 2018, Representatives Cramer and Peterson introduced HR 5497 directing the Federal Communications Commission to establish an Office of Rural Telecommunications at the FCC to collect data and provide resources to rural communities across America. In addition, HR 5497 directs federal agency coordination between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) with the goal toward sharing information and collaborating at an interagency level to improve and provide affordable broadband services to these communities.

These federal agencies continue to carry lead responsibility for formulating, implementing, and empowering our rural communities through a myriad of federal telecommunications and broadband grant and loan programs, in addition to the Universal Service Fund Programs, administered by USAC through the FCC. This legislation, if passed, would significantly inform the barriers and challenges faced by rural communities, as well as advance more cost effective and efficient deployment of broadband to these areas. We can all act toward closing the digital divide between rural and urban by asking our congressional representatives to support this legislation.