FCC Testifies on Bridging the Digital Divide

Phase one of implementing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will begin in late October. FCC Commissioners testify before Congress and they have differing opinions on how things should play out.

A few weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission released a report indicating that only 18 million Americans, or about 5.5 percent, are without broadband internet access. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says that that number is not credible. She states, “That number is based on the same problematic methodology you called for us to stop using in the Broadband Data Act...Here’s the problem the bulk of Americans without service today are in areas that are on the outskirts of suburbs... and our maps say they have service, when they do not. “

The country’s largest broadband providers researched the maps and found that 38 percent of the areas showing as serviced are actually without proper internet access. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is aimed to bridge the divide, but its implementation is based on these same maps.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that the plan to roll out the funds focuses on areas not on the maps. “Phase one of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund focuses on unserved areas. Areas that we know... do not have any service... So to me at least, for those millions of Americans, that are on the wrong side of digital divide... It is not adequate for me to say that they should be denied digital opportunity...,” Pai states.