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FCC grant to boost Jefferson County rural broadband

Grants total $67.6 million in 10 Oregon counties

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission recently authorized over $67.6 million in support in Oregon over the next decade for maintaining, improving and expanding affordable broadband for nearly 4,700 rural homes and businesses in 10 counties, including Jefferson County.

The late-August authorization in Oregon was part of a nationwide authorization of over $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa, including 44,243 locations on tribal lands.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as "rate-of-return" carriers.  These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC's Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar. 

The homes and businesses are in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC's Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In return for the federal support, carriers must maintain, improve and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to over 363,000 locations nationwide, including more than 37,000 locations on Tribal lands. 

Providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.

"Our action today will help close the digital divide and is a win-win for rural Americans and taxpayers, including nearly 4,700 homes and small businesses in Oregon," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Carriers get the predictable support they need to deliver broadband to their customers in these high-cost rural areas.  And taxpayers, who fund this support through a fee on their phone bills, are getting more bang for their buck."

Following is a list of Oregon counties where companies will receive support, with 10-year support amounts and the number of homes and businesses supported (locations):

County

Company

Support/10 Years

Locations

Baker

May, Bott

$13,979,082

          970

Gilliam

May, Bott

$5,904,897

          404

Grant

May, Bott

$16,009,213

       1,294

Jefferson

May, Bott

$9,745,725

          598

Malheur

May, Bott

$6,882,846

          331

Marion

St. Paul Cooperative Telephone

$5,683,854

          474

Morrow

May, Bott

$24,000

             1

Wallowa

May, Bott

$24,000

             1

Wasco

May, Bott

$9,218,077

          609

Wheeler

May, Bott

$168,000

             7

TOTAL

 

$67,639,694

          4,689

 

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., applauded the news in a release sent late last week:

"Expanding access to rural broadband in Oregon brings us closer to narrowing the urban/rural digital divide and ushers rural Oregonians into the 21st Century," said Walden. "There are still too many Oregonians who lack access to reliable broadband internet service and thus access to things like telemedicine, remote learning, next generation emergency services, and video streaming because of insufficient Internet service.

:I am grateful that the FCC recognizes the need to expand rural broadband in Oregon. I look forward to continuing to work alongside Chairman Pai and my colleagues in Congress to ensure all Americans are connected to high speed broadband."

Walden invited Chairman Pai to Eastern Oregon last year to discuss efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities, including making sure patients in remote areas have access to the best doctors through technology like telehealth.

Walden said continues to partner with Chairman Pai and the FCC to expand broadband infrastructure to rural communities in Oregon, which is a priority for the congressman. Walden led the effort to pass the RAY BAUM'S Act into law, which reauthorized the FCC and gave the agency additional tools to enhance broadband expansion.


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