Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) have appealed to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to release more Connect America Fund money to speed broadband upgrades in their home state.
Franken (left), and Kobuchar. (Images courtesy of U.S. Senate)
In a letter to the chairman, the senators acknowledged that Minnesota received $11 million in the first-phase distribution of CAF funds, but suggested the FCC move quickly to distribute the remaining first-phase funds. The letter stated that initial CAF dollars were employed to extend broadband to more than 14,000 households that were previously unserved but also noted that more than 226,000 Minnesota residents still don't have access to broadband.
The FCC reformed the Universal Service Fund within the last couple of years to create a Connect America Fund for allocating broadband upgrade dollars to underserved areas. However, the new fund has not always drawn praise from telcos and states with a high number of rural markets. Most of them want more aggressive reforms that would encourage speedier allocations and upgrades.
Sen. Klobuchar chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion and is a member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. She has introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act, which would require states to simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects, including projects such as building a new highway or adding a new lane or shoulder to an existing highway. In other words, "dig once." Last year the proposal was advanced by President Obama's executive order accelerating broadband infrastructure deployment.
Sen. Franken is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law and has repeatedly advocated for broadband buildout to rural areas. In April, he sent a bipartisan letter to the FCC urging the Commission 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.
- see the letter at Sen. Franken's website
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