A top Senate Democrat is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to move quickly to overhaul the Universal Service Fund (USF) telecom subsidy to deliver broadband to rural areas.
Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter (PDF available here) to each of the five FCC commissioners urging swift action to reform the USF to close the digital divide. Rockefeller framed his letter around the explosion at of the Upper Big Branch mine in his state earlier this year, a disaster that was exacerbated by the lack of communications capacity at the remote site.
“Before temporary satellite services were brought in, responders were forced to drive up and down the mountain from the drill site to the command center to get basic information,” he wrote.
“Explosions like what happened at Upper Big Branch may be unique to mining states. But the communications deficit this tragedy exposed is not,” he added.
“The stark fact is that the present Universal Service system has failed to provide the kind of ubiquitous service the law requires.”