Wicker Questions FCC on Universal Service Fund

Miss. Senator Highlights Connectivity Needs for Rural Consumers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today questioned members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the agency’s Universal Service Fund (USF) program. Wicker’s comments were made during a committee oversight hearing.

Wicker, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the FCC, asked Commissioner Mignon Clyburn about current USF support for wireless and if the agency is considering any changes to existing USF coverage in rural states like Mississippi. He went on to highlight the incredible public health and educational benefits resulting from connecting households without coverage in economically challenging areas with the assistance of the mobility fund.

“There is an incredible benefit to public health from the mobility fund in making sure that we continue to connect wireless-only households …” Wicker said. “It seems to me the FCC must do no harm to existing coverage in rural states when considering future changes in Universal Service Fund support for wireless.”

“I have been speaking for a number of years about the FCC establishing a permanent mobility fund,” Clyburn responded. “… From Jackson to Ruleville, there are spots along the road where we have absolutely no coverage. … The citizens that live offside of those roads are extremely vulnerable, particularly those who are wireless-only consumers. They deserve connectivity. … I am looking forward to working with you to truly connect particularly those unhealthy doughnut holes where there is no connectivity whatsoever.”

Clyburn visited Mississippi in 2014 to tour several telemedicine projects in the state.

Wicker highlighted the needs of many rural consumers who are dependent on USF-supported wireless networks. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, as well as the North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville, depend on a reliable broadband connection to operate telemedicine programs. USF provides a support mechanism for the deployment of wireless networks in rural areas to allow patients to interact with medical professionals around the clock from their homes or even while operating equipment in the field.