Park City, Utah – At the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit today, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks spoke to attendees, highlighting two policy priorities in which rural carriers are at the front lines: advocating for accessible and affordable broadband and ensuring the security of our Nation’s networks.
With programs such as the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the Universal Service Fund, and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), as well as the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program to be administered by the states, Starks stressed the importance for RWA members to participate in these programs to finally close the digital divide. “Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we take full advantage of these resources and do all that we can to maximize these programs for everyday Americans – and that’s where you come in,” Commissioner Starks said. “You are at the forefront of this effort.”
Turning to his second policy focus, Commissioner Starks highlighted the FCC’s work to support providers securing networks, including through the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program, for which Commissioner Starks thanked RWA and its members for their involvement in the proceeding.
“RWA and its members have been very active in this proceeding, so I thank you and RWA for your thoughtful advocacy, which has made the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program even stronger,” he said. He also acknowledged the projected shortfall in funding for the program, noting that a fully-funded program will require an additional appropriation from Congress.
Commissioner Starks also touched on Open RAN technology, noting its significant advantages, such as reduced energy with replacement of hardware with software, a spark to increase innovation and competition, and a promise for greater security.
“We are at the forefront of exciting times in communications,” Commissioner Sparks said. “The increase in deployment, coupled with ACP and affordable broadband plans, means that the benefits of the internet and our modern economy will soon be open to many who have waited far too long to log on. […] I will continue to push for accessible and affordable broadband that is secure, and I look forward to continuing to work with rural providers to achieve these goals.”
The Commissioner’s speech is available here.