Senate Bill Pushes to Equalize Urban and Rural Broadband Services

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Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has introduced into the U.S. Senate a bill, the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act of 2018 (S.2418) which according to a press release from Sen. Hassan’s office helps “close the urban-rural digital divide and expand access to broadband in rural parts of New Hampshire and across the county.” S.2418, which has bipartisan support and three co-sponsors, stipulates that within 180 days of the legislation becoming law “the Commission shall promulgate regulations that establish a national standard to determine, with respect to access to universal service in rural, insular, and high-cost areas under section 254(b)(3) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(b)(3)), whether commercial mobile services, commercial mobile data services, and broadband Internet access services available in rural areas are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas.” If passed, the law will also require that the FCC gather data on “the average signal strength and average speed of commercial mobile service and commercial mobile data service, and on the average speeds of broadband Internet access service” for the top 20 most populous metropolitan markets in the United States and use that “standard” to make sure that similar services in a rural area are “reasonably comparable.”  On June 15, 2018, the House of Representatives introduced companion legislation, also with bipartisan support, and ten co-sponsors.  The similarly-named bill (HR.2903) was referred to the House Sub-Committee on Communications and Technology.  Sen. Hassan’s bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for further deliberation.

 

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