Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this week sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to level the playing field for broadband providers in unserved rural communities competing for the upcoming Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II) "reverse-auction" funding. To illustrate the importance of his request, Bennet included three constituent letters that express some of the primary concerns surrounding broadband access.
In the first letter, Kirsten Lee and Richard Farmer-small business owners who have property near Durango and wish to relocate there from California-wrote to Bennet: "This dream of relocating our lives to Durango is impossible given the slow internet options available to us as our business[es] rely on high-speed connectivity in the same way we all rely on roads, or electricity."
In the second letter, Jerry Swingle of Hermosa lamented the highly inconsistent coverage in southwest Colorado and the lack of transparency with the CAF-II program during the last round of funding.
In the third letter, the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG) outlined installation and speed concerns with broadband infrastructure in areas designated to receive funding through the previous round of CAF-II.
Bennet addressed his constituents' concerns in his letter to FCC Chairman Pai.
Regarding broadband access, Bennet requested that the next round of CAF-II funding ensure that all providers capable of delivering reliable, high-speed Internet, especially in unserved rural areas, are eligible to compete for these funds on a level playing field.
"Many local Internet service providers across Colorado have not been eligible for previous funding rounds because of their size, customer base, or incapacity to provide voice service in addition to Internet," Bennet wrote. "The next round of funding should ensure that broadband providers in less populous areas are able to compete, giving them a chance to fulfill the original mission of the Connect America Fund."
Regarding lack of transparency, Bennet reiterated his request from November 2017, when he sent another letter to the FCC urging increased transparency of the CAF-II program to ensure funds are being well spent. He has yet to receive a response.
Regarding broadband speed, Bennet requested that bidders in the upcoming CAF-II reverse-auction are encouraged to offer the highest quality service possible.
"A failure to encourage CAF recipients to build out at higher speeds, or at least establish a network architecture that will eventually be capable of higher speeds, could continue to deny many rural areas the economic opportunity that true connectivity brings," Bennet wrote.
A copy of Bennet's letter, including an addendum with the three constituent letters, is available HERE.