Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has circulated an order to her fellow commissioners that aims to make sure government-assisted broadband service providers offer robust internet service speeds in remote areas of the U.S.
The FCC order, if approved by a majority of commissioners, would create the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) program that in turn would require the deployment of 100/20 Mbps or faster service to all locations served by the program.
According to the FCC, A-CAM carriers currently serve some of the most remote areas of the U.S.
“The commission’s universal service high-cost programs have a track record of supporting networks that connect remote communities across the country,” said Rosenworcel. “But to keep pace with the demand for reliable broadband and meet the needs of consumers today and into the future, we need to optimize these programs to bring higher speeds and greater bandwidth to consumers.”
In a press release, the FCC explained that the order would require that participating carriers serve all locations in their service areas at 100/20 Mbps or greater in return for an extension of the A-CAM program and an incremental increase in support for expensive-to-serve areas.
The FCC added that the Enhanced A-CAM program would complement existing Federal, state, and local funding programs, including the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Additionally, the order would also provide an opportunity for legacy rate-of-return carriers to bring 100/20 Mbps broadband to their customers in return for a term of stable support.
Rosenworcel also circulated a rulemaking and inquiry that seeks comment on further reforms to the legacy rate-of-return system and methods for modifying the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program to support ongoing expenses for broadband networks. The commission is especially seeking feedback on broadband networks built with capital funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other recent Federal and state efforts.