Washington, D.C. – Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (RWA) Regulatory Counsel Erin Fitzgerald testified at a U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Joint Subcommittee Hearing today. Fitzgerald underscored the challenges of providing wireless broadband in rural areas, “RWA members operate in areas where low population density, extreme weather conditions, and difficult terrain make doing so an expensive and challenging task. Insufficient spectrum access, a dysfunctional data roaming market, and declining universal service support exacerbate those challenges.”
RWA discussed its support for the use of small geographic license sizes, bidding credits, and a “keep-what-you-serve” approach to spectrum licensing in order to ensure that a wide variety of entities have access to wireless spectrum and to support broadband deployment in rural areas.
RWA highlighted issues with the data roaming market, noting that nationwide carriers will often refrain from offering their own subscribers access to rural roaming coverage on small carrier networks, even when their own coverage is inferior or non-existent – a practice that deprives American consumers access to rural networks, and could threaten public safety. RWA also underscored concerns regarding the transition to Voice over LTE and related roaming issues.
Fitzgerald noted that the barriers to receiving high-cost universal service support through the Mobility Fund Phase II Auction will be high – issues regarding a too-low coverage standard, determinations of which areas are funding eligible, and costs imposed by letter of credit requirements are all cause for concern.
Fitzgerald underscored the work that rural wireless carriers undertake despite such challenges, noting that each and every day “networks operated by small, rural-based wireless service providers promote public safety, encourage innovation and economic development, enable more efficient energy and agriculture production, and support telehealth and distance learning applications.”
Fitzgerald’s written testimony is available here..