Originally published: July 26, 2011
Last updated: July 26, 2011 - 8:23pm
[Commentary] Kansas will lose out if rules currently under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission are enacted.
At issue is an effort by the government agency to "reform" a telecommunications fund that Kansas residents and businesses rely on to the tune of nearly $143 million annually to connect their rural areas to the world. Unfortunately, this so-called reform of the federal Universal Service Fund looks like it could be more of a grand experiment than a focused effort to update and fine-tune a system that has worked well. It will mean that Kansans may need to say goodbye to broadband Internet access in some of the state's more remote corners. Indeed, unless the FCC reforms this fund in the right way, millions of rural Americans could be left behind.
I was among nine Kansas RLEC chief executives who went to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to tell the FCC and Congress how this so-called reform proposal will harm thousands of Kansans. Rural broadband is a part of our state's critical infrastructure. It has played a vital role in equipping Kansas first responders and health care providers with information that has been used to save and enhance the lives of Kansans. It has helped small communities by attracting businesses. Broadband enables rural Kansas residents to gain employment with companies far from home, through the ability to "telework." Eliminate the support for these networks, and the networks and the benefits they deliver will go away. The reforms being considered are a recipe for rural devastation. The FCC needs to proceed with deliberate caution.
[Foster is the CEO of Twin Valley Telephone in Miltonvale (KS]
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