On March 2, all five FCC Commissioners testified before the Commerce Committee. During the hearing, Montana Senator Steve Daines asked the commissioners to ensure an equal distribution of Universal Service funds to help close the gap in broadband access between urban and rural areas.
“I see the commission awarding money to entities and areas that already have access to fiber, consistently upgrading speed in urban areas while certainly for many of us who are looking and repressing rural areas, we are undeserved,” said Daines. “Can you really say that is an efficient use for Universal Service funds and should the commission be focusing on areas that have no connectivity like many areas in Montana,” Daines asked.
The commissioners agreed with Daines focus on providing broadband to rural areas. Daines went on to focus on a series of new FCC regulations Daines argued that small businesses should be exempt from some of these regulatory burdens. All five of the FCC commissioners agreed.
“Both the Obama Administration and Small Business Administration and literally every person who submitted comment or a reply comment in our record suggest this burden was undue and that the agency should relieve them of that,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. “I agree with my colleagues here to the right,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “We have exempted small businesses from the enhanced transparency rule for the next year, but it think it would be useful if the agency contemplated a longer or permanent exemption.”
Daines applauded the idea of a permanent exemption for small businesses saying that the current uncertainty was hurting the companies that don’t have the ability to higher lawyers and compliance personnel.