08.31.18

Capito, Manchin, McKinley Fighting for Broadband Funding for West Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate and the House conference their respective spending bills, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (R-W.Va.) and Representative David McKinley (R-W.Va.) urged conferees to set aside for building out broadband infrastructure in hard to serve places like West Virginia. Deploying broadband is significantly more expensive in West Virginia because of our mountainous terrain. Without dedicated funding, it will be impossible for West Virginia to compete with other states that can build the same towers at half the cost.

They said in part: “The additional obstacle of mountainous topography adds more work and time to the buildout process and incurs an even larger price tag…With the additional effort and higher costs associated with servicing places with difficult, mountainous topography, it is clear why providers would choose to avoid broadband deployment in high cost, geographically challenged areas. That is exactly why a high cost set aside for geographically challenged states is critical.”

Read the letter below or click here.

Dear Chairman Shelby, Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Leahy, and Ranking Member Lowey:

As you move to Conference Committee on H.R. 6147, the minibus appropriations bill, which includes the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Financial Services and General Government; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies, we respectfully request that you maintain Senate report language encouraging the FCC to consider establishing a high cost set aside within the Mobility Fund Phase II for geographically challenged areas in the United States in the final conference report.

As you know, last August, the FCC finally moved forward with Mobility Fund II, which will award up to $4.53 billion in universal service support over 10 years for mobile wireless carriers in unsubsidized areas that lack adequate mobile voice and broadband coverage. While we are strong supporters of this program and of recent efforts by the FCC to help stakeholders understand the challenge process and play an active role in improving the official coverage maps, we are concerned that states like ours will not see very much of this critical funding due to the program’s reverse auction format. The auction for Mobility Fund Phase II is structured to provide the maximum return on investment meaning that flat areas that are easy to access and where a cell signal travels further are more likely to be chosen over states like ours, which have much more rugged and difficult landscapes to navigate and build on.

The additional obstacle of mountainous topography adds more work and time to the buildout process and incurs an even larger price tag. For example, during the first phase of Mobility Fund, the average cost of Auction 901 greenfield sites constructed by U.S. Cellular in West Virginia came in at about $1.2 million making it almost two and a half times more expensive than states like Iowa which only had an average cost of about $500,000.

With the additional effort and higher costs associated with servicing places with difficult, mountainous topography, it is clear why providers would choose to avoid broadband deployment in high cost, geographically challenged areas. That is exactly why a high cost set aside for geographically challenged states is critical.

We hope that you will include the Senate provision (which received bipartisan support in the Senate Appropriations Committee) that encourages the FCC to consider a set aside within the Mobility Fund II for high cost, geographically challenged areas in the final conference report allowing states like ours to have a fair chance of receiving this vital funding. 

Thank you for your leadership on the Appropriations Committees, and we look forward to working with you on this critically important piece of legislation. 

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