Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) pressed for legislation to help ensure that the federal government is doing everything it can to bring affordable high-speed Internet access to communities and businesses in Minnesota-especially in rural areas-and across the country.
The bipartisan measure requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to assess whether the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is effectively promoting the availability and affordability of broadband services in rural areas. Such services are critically important to job creation and economic development in communities in Minnesota and across the country.
"Reliable, high-speed broadband is critical to keeping rural communities in Minnesota and across the country strong," said Sen. Franken. "I want to make sure scarce federal dollars are actually getting to the communities that need them. This legislation will allow us to assess the FCC's progress on expanding and improving broadband services throughout the United States and is a key step to bringing Internet access to all Americans."
"Minnesota Telecom Alliance member companies provide broadband to some of the most rural parts of Minnesota and we can't afford for the FCC to get it wrong," said Brent Christensen, President and CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance. "We very much appreciate the efforts of Senator Franken to make sure the process works the way it should. This GAO study will help ensure the FCC's plans work to provide a regulatory framework under which our companies can better serve our customers and ensure the economic viability of rural Minnesota for years to come."
Sen. Franken is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law and has repeatedly advocated for broadband build out to rural areas. In April of last year and this February, Sen. Franken sent letters to the FCC urging the Commission to do more to deploy broadband to rural areas of Minnesota and to consider the unique needs of rural communities when reforming the Universal Service Fund, a program that was created to improve communications service for all Americans. In March, along with Republican Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Franken passed into the Senate's 2014 budget an amendment promoting investment in broadband infrastructure for rural areas.
This legislation was originally introduced by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and is also cosponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).