Sounds like there’s some uncertainty based on a change in federal policy.
The Universal Service Fund, which supported efforts to make sure all areas of the country have phone service, was recently morphed into the Connect America Fund, which focuses on getting broadband access to all areas of the country.
The change is intended to bring broadband internet to all of rural America by 2020, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, said the change will actually slow down improvements in South Dakota—at least in the short term.
“Rural phone companies are completing their broadband infrastructure expenditures this year but are making very, very few plans for next year and literally nothing the year beyond that because of the uncertainty the order has caused,” Nelson said.
The problem, according to Nelson and Jerry Reisenauer, general manager of the West River Cooperative Telephone Company in Bison, is that the formula for determining how much federal money telecommunications companies will receive is complicated; the companies don’t know how much federal money they will get before they invest in a project.
Read more in this Associated Press story, via the Rapid City Journal.
My impression from this story: I’d like to hear the FCC representative respond directly to the complaints from the SDPUC chairman and the general manager of the company hesitant to invest. Talk of complicated formulas can’t be good for their public relations—you’d think they would want to respond promptly.
What are your thoughts? Do you have broadband access in your rural area? Do you think rural broadband access needs to be improved? Comment below!