FCC's Wheeler says rural U.S. needs more 'Silicon Hollers' like Kentucky as he touts USF reform

The Federal Communications Commission must continue to work toward the goal of having broadband service accessible to Americans at "reasonably comparable" speeds and prices, Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Senate committee hearing, where he highlighted rural communities in eastern Kentucky as examples of areas where broadband has brought opportunity and innovation.

 "On my recent visit to eastern Kentucky I visited two towns being reshaped by the broadband revolution," Wheeler told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in an annual oversight hearing. "McKee, Ky., or as some call it, 'Silicon Holler,' where there is now fiber to every home and business in the county, and Hazard, Ky., where I had the privilege to meet a former coal miner who is now working as a coder in the innovation economy.  It was a striking reminder that the Commission's work can be a critical component to renewed economic growth."

Wheeler said that broadband's capability to improve rural life and opportunities is a key reason behind the need to modernize the Universal Service Fund to reform rate-of-return carriers and to provide support for standalone broadband service.

The FCC recently circulated an Order that he said will address those issues.

"Our 21st century economy demands nothing less than vigorous broadband connections for rural, urban and suburban alike," Wheeler said.

For more:
- see Wheeler's speech (PDF)

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