Vol. 17, No. 25
June 28, 2021
172 Organizations Call on Congress to Increase
Broadband Speeds with Future Proof Fiber
As Congress takes steps toward a historic broadband infrastructure package, a new letter signed by 172 organizations is urging policy makers to make future proof fiber the foundation. Highlighting the need to help local communities address accessibility and affordability gaps, the letter underscores the need to build new networks that address the digital divide and meet the long-term needs of all Americans.

The signers of the letter span the political spectrum and represent the nation’s leading consumer and public interest advocates, farming, education, libraries, health, and local advocates for cities large and small. Signers also include competitive ISP’s and trade groups that represent both wired and wireless providers.
FCC, NTIA and USDA Sign Agreement to Coordinate
Broadband Funding Deployment
The FCC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), announced an interagency agreement on June 25 to share information about and coordinate the distribution of federal broadband deployment funds. In accordance with the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the respective Cabinet and agency leaders announced that their agencies will consult with one another and share information about the distribution of new funds from the FCC’s high-cost programs that support broadband buildout in rural areas, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs, and programs administered or coordinated by NTIA.

As part of the signed agreement, each federal agency partner will share information about existing or planned projects that receive funding from the previously mentioned federal funding sources. Each partner will also, upon request, identify entities providing broadband service in a specified geographic area; the levels of broadband service in that area, including broadband speeds and technologies deployed; the geographic scope of broadband service in that area; and each entity in that area that has or will receive funds from these programs. The Agreement also requires the federal agency partners to consider basing the distribution of funds from the programs on standardized broadband coverage data.

For more information about what programs will now require explicit coordination among the FCC, NTIA, and USDA, click here.
FCC Announces Agenda for July 13 Open Meeting
The FCC issued a tentative agenda for its July 13 Open Meeting, during which it will consider:
Unused Funds Available for Rural Health Care
The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau issued a public notice announcing the availability of unused funds to increase the Rural Health Care Program funding for funding year 2021. The bureau said USAC projected that, as of March 31, 2021, $379.97 million in unused funds are available for use in future funding years beginning in FY 2021, and it directed USAC to carry forward up to $379.97 million in unused funds from prior funding years to the extent necessary to satisfy FY 2021 RHC program demand.
Sen. Wicker Requests Reports on Pandemic Broadband Funds
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent letters to the Departments of Education, Agriculture and f Treasury requesting that they report on the disbursement of funds received for broadband deployment, adoption or other connectivity initiatives from the CARES Act of 2020, Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Sen. Kennedy Introduces Telehealth Bills
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced four bills to improve access to telehealth services, including the Increasing Rural Telehealth Services Act, which would expand access to health care by improving remote patient monitoring technology. The other bills would raise reimbursement levels for virtual visits and end a regulation that limits access to telehealth services, among other things.