U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) has introduced a bill, the Rural Broadband Network Advancement Act of 2019 (Rural Broadband Act), to assist rural broadband providers in high cost rural areas by helping fund their deployment, operational, and delivery costs. The program would be administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) who would assess a network user fee on any edge provider that has data transported across the network of an eligible rural broadband provider. The funds collected from the network user fees would be apportioned equitably to rural broadband providers based upon the relative proportion of the edge provider’s data transmitted on the respective rural network.
For rural broadband providers to receive compensation they must be a rural broadband provider in a high cost rural area and submit any information reasonably prescribed by the Commission to determine the appropriate level of funding. Eligible rural broadband providers would be able to use the funds only for the following purposes: (1) initial deployment of a rural broadband network; (2) ongoing operational and maintenance costs; and (3) ongoing delivery of services to users, including costs of transit and transport between rural service areas and urban or suburban interconnection points.