Following a bipartisan push by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and 29 other Senators, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)today extended the deadline for the challenge process to the map of eligible areas for up to $4.5 billion in support for rural wireless broadband expansion over the next 10 years.
“This map is intended to reflect areas that lack unsubsidized mobile 4G LTE service, but it unfortunately falls short of an accurate depiction of areas in need of universal service support,” wrote McCaskill and her colleagues in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “… Communities in our states that are not initially eligible or successfully challenged will be ineligible for up to $4.53 billion in support over the next 10 years, exacerbating the digital divide and denying fundamental economic and safety opportunities to rural communities.”
The wireless coverage map, which purportedly shows areas that are unserved by 4G LTE service, shows many areas of Missouri and the country to be covered, when on-the-ground experience suggests otherwise. McCaskill and the bipartisan group of senators asked the FCC to extend the challenge process window by 90 days to allow additional outreach to stakeholders, and to allow opponents to assemble the necessary data to challenge the eligibility map in their area, an effort supported by the Missouri Farm Bureau.
McCaskill—a leading voice in the Senate for improving access to rural broadband—has previouslyurged the agency to implement safeguards as it prepares to award $1.98 billion in rural broadband funding. McCaskill also introduced the Community Broadband Act, which would improve internet access in rural areas by protecting the rights of communities to build municipal broadband networks and is backing a bipartisan push to improve broadband internet access in Missouri’s rural communities to ensure farmers and ranchers can take advantage of precision agriculture technology to better compete in the global market.