Wyden, Merkley, Schrader Applaud FCC’s Decision to Continue Support to Rural Oregon Telecom Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representative Kurt Schrader applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to continue the eligibility of the Gervais, Mt. Angel, Monitor and St. Paul Telephone Companies for universal service support. These rural providers were under threat of losing high cost support, which would jeopardize service to rural Oregonians. 

“Access to telephone and broadband service is essential for safety, learning, communicating and doing business in today’s modern economy. I am pleased the FCC responded to our serious concerns and reversed a bad decision that could’ve left rural Oregonians in a permanent dead zone,” Wyden said. “Without question these universal service funds are crucial in keeping rural Oregon connected and online so that all our state’s communities can prosper.”

“It’s impossible to participate fully in today’s economy without access to broadband and other essential telecom services,” said Merkley. “The FCC’s flawed methodology risked locking rural Oregonians out of economic opportunities and leaving them with zero service options. I commend the FCC for going back to the drawing board and making the right call on this critical decision.”  

“This is big win for my constituents in the 5th District, who rely heavily on these rural providers. Without service support, these providers would run the risk of going out of business and thousands of Oregonians would be left high and dry,” said Schrader. “I’m glad the FCC took our concerns about their methodology into consideration and, ultimately, changed course.”

“The Oregon Telecommunications Association (OTA) is grateful for the assistance from Congressman Schrader, Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley. Without their support the actions of the FCC would have resulted in rural Oregonians being left without a viable system capable of providing broadband and other telecommunications services,” said Brant Wolf, Executive Vice President of the OTA. “Leaving rural Oregon to fend for itself in a digital dark age is not good public policy and Schrader, Wyden and Merkley have been instrumental in ensuring that Oregonians will be able to participate in the 21st century economy.”

The lawmakers wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in September expressing concern about the methodology used by the Wireline Completion Bureau to determine which telecom carrier areas are fully served by unsubsidized competitors and therefore would be subject to the phase-out of high cost universal service support. 

“Withholding all federal universal high-cost support from rural Oregon would have serious negative impacts on the people living there. Access to modern telecommunications systems is essential to participating in today’s economy, education and healthcare systems and, interaction with government agencies,” the lawmakers wrote. “This action should not be taken lightly or be done based on flawed data collection methods.”

The full text of that letter is available HERE