Letter to Chairman Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission - Walberg leads bipartisan letter to FCC on rural broadband deployment


By: Cynthia Lummis, John Barrasso, Shelley Capito, Joe Manchin III, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Mike Rounds, John Thune, Bob Casey, Jr., Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, James Lankford, Ben Lujan, Jr., Deb Fischer, Kevin Cramer, John Hoeven, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Roy Blunt, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Debbie Stabenow, Angus King, Jr., Chris Van Hollen, Jr., Ben Cardin, Roger Marshall, Jerry Moran, Todd Young, Tammy Duckworth, Dick Durbin, James Risch, Mike Crapo, Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Brian Schatz, Michael Bennet, Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, Tom Cotton, John Boozman, Carol Miller, Alex Mooney, David McKinley, Tom Tiffany, Glenn Grothman, Scott Fitzgerald, Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, Dan Newhouse, Peter Welch, Morgan Griffith, Abigail Spanberger, Ben Cline, Bob Good, Elaine Luria, Rob Wittman, Jodey Arrington, Louie Gohmert, Diana Harshbarger, Dusty Johnson, Tom Rice, Jim Clyburn, Ralph Norman, Jr., Joe Wilson, Sr., Tim Murphy, GT Thompson, Jr., Fred Keller, Peter DeFazio, Stephanie Bice, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, Markwayne Mullin, Kevin Hern, Anthony Gonzalez, Steve Stivers, Troy Balderson, Bill Johnson, Brad Wenstrup, Tom Reed II, Elise Stefanik, Paul Tonko, Kirsten Gillibrand, Antonio Delgado, Steven Horsford, Dina Titus, Jeff Fortenberry, Kelly Armstrong, Ted Budd, Alma Adams, Dan Bishop, Richard Hudson, Jr., David Rouzer, Virginia Foxx, Greg Murphy, G. K. Butterfield, Jr., Matt Rosendale, Michael Guest, Roger Wicker, Trent Kelly, Jason Smith, Billy Long, Vicky Hartzler, Peter Stauber, Michelle Fischbach, Angie Craig, Jim Hagedorn, John Moolenaar, Bill Huizenga, Jack Bergman, Jared Golden, Chellie Pingree, Kweisi Mfume, David Trone, Andy Harris, Ed Markey, Richard Neal, Andy Barr, Hal Rogers, James Comer, Jr., Ron Estes, Sharice Davids, Jacob LaTurner, Tracey Mann, Greg Pence, Darin LaHood, Cheri Bustos, Rodney Davis, Mike Bost, Mike Simpson, Russ Fulcher, Randy Feenstra, Cindy Axne, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson, Kai Kahele, Ed Case, Rick Allen, Andrew Clyde, Austin Scott, Drew Ferguson, Sanford Bishop, Jr., Buddy Carter, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy, Ken Buck, David Valadao, Jimmy Panetta, Ro Khanna, Jared Huffman, Doug LaMalfa, Debbie Lesko, Paul Gosar, Tom O'Halleran, Steve Womack, French Hill, Terri Sewell, Robert Aderholt, Barry Moore, Jerry Carl, Tim Walberg
Date: Jan. 19, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write today regarding the recent announcement that Phase 1 of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction is complete, with more than $9.2 billion slated to be awarded to reach more than 5.2 million unserved locations across rural America. We all hope this program will be a great success--and it is in that spirit that we write to encourage you to take every reasonable measure possible to ensure this turns out to be the case.

For far too long, too many Americans have lacked access to the affordable, high-speed broadband services they need to participate in today's online world. We appreciate the steps the FCC has taken to provide connectivity to more homes and businesses. The initial estimates of the locations that RDOF Phase 1 could connect are encouraging, and we are eager to see this program succeed so that more individuals and businesses receive the broadband services promised.

The hard work of carrying out this program will now begin in earnest. Transparency and accountability must be part and parcel of the administration of any program, and we urge you to thoroughly vet the winning bidders to ensure that they are capable of deploying and delivering the services they committed to providing. We therefore believe it is essential that the FCC apply the scrutiny needed to ensure the funding will be used wisely and effectively, consistent with the goals of the Universal Service Fund (USF) High Cost Program. Without proper due diligence today, we fear that we will not know whether funds were improperly spent for years to come.

As responsible stewards of USF funds, we ask that the FCC redouble its efforts to review the long-form applications that will now be submitted. We urge the FCC to validate that each provider in fact has the technical, financial, managerial, operational skills, capabilities, and resources to deliver the services that they have pledged for every American they plan to serve regardless of the technology they use. We also strongly encourage the FCC to make as public as possible the status of its review and consider opportunities for public input on the applications. Such transparency and accountability will be essential to ensure the success of this program and to minimize any opportunities for fraud or abuse.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to develop and implement programs to close the digital divide.