On May 27, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report to Congress entitled Bringing Broadband to Rural America, Report on a Rural Broadband Strategy, as required by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R.2419). H.R. 2419 directed the FCC Chairman, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to submit a report to Congress describing a comprehensive rural broadband strategy that includes recommendations and a description of goals and timeframes to achieve the purposes of the report. The report identifies problems affecting rural broadband, including inadequate coordination, technological challenges, lack of data and high network costs, and offers some recommendations to address these problems. It does not include any timeframes, primarily because of the pending National Broadband Plan that the FCC is required to submit to Congress under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Some of the FCC's rural broadband recommendations are relatively straightforward, such as recommending increased federal and state coordination on programs affecting rural broadband and improved information about broadband service and infrastructure availability in rural areas. Other recommendations lack specifics, such as the need for programs to stimulate and sustain demand for rural broadband services. However, the report contains certain conclusions that may be of particular interest to clients, including views about expanding the universal service fund, the role of government owned or sponsored broadband networks, network neutrality, spectrum access and special access prices. A summary of the report is available here.