Butterfield Introduces Broadband Deployment Reform

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The Universal Service Fund (USF) this month introduced the Expanding Opportunities for Broadband Deployment Act aimed to abolish the 24-year old Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) designation for broadband providers seeking USF grant money, according to Multichannel News. Led by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), this new legislative reform aims to provide broadband access and better connectivity, whereas the ETC not only failed to do so, but was creating a barrier to connectivity, according to supporters. 

Created in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, when landlines were prevalent, the ETC required up to 40 regulatory procedures. Today, internet service providers (ISPs) call those standards archaic and say they dissuade them from participating in federal funding programs.  

“Compared to the burden and risk of becoming an ETC, certain providers have determined in the past and likely will again that the reward simply isn’t worth it.” Said FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “Broadband [is] an interstate information service [and] should not function as a backdoor way to expose providers to burdensome and unpredictable intrastate regulations.”  

Multichannel News reported state utility commissions have little oversight over broadband providers, making ETC designation unnecessary and redundant to Commission oversight. Without benefits to qualified providers, fewer choose to participate in federal broadband grant programs. 

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