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Vt. instructs FCC to push wireless providers into expanding rural service

The Federal Communications Commission is hearing from government officials from four of the nations rural, undeveloped states Vermont, Maine, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Governors of each state have told the FCC that coming wireless bandwidth auctions must mean that carriers must show a commitment to expanding and enhancing rural wireless infrastructure. The states called on carriers to expand service in their rural unserved markets and to make available unused frequencies to entrepreneurs and innovators willing to try new technologies and business models, as well as to state-sponsored initiatives, which are chartered to spur service in unserved areas. The letter was issued in support of new FCC requirements for licenses that were part of the recently completed auction of the 700 MHz spectrum. The states also called for further action by industry participants to aid rural expansion of wireless service in unserved areas. The letter, signed by officials from the four rural states, pointed to the large bids submitted for licenses with some of the toughest build-out (expansion) requirements. Representatives of these states had previously joined together in 2006 and 2007 to urge the FCC to adopt rules for the 700 MHz wireless spectrum that would require more expansion in rural areas. The FCC responded in 2007 by adopting rules increasing coverage requirements for licensees and reducing the size of many of the license areas auctioned. There are still (Vermont) communities that are waiting for wireless services; we appreciate that the FCC acknowledged that we need to do more for our communities, said Commissioner David OBrien of the Vermont Department of Public Service. What we need are license holders, big and small, who are willing to work with us and expand service. Gov. Jim Douglas signed Act 79 in 2007 which committed the state to universal broadband availability and mobile wireless coverage by 2010, reformed permit processes for wireless facilities, and created the Vermont Telecommunications Authority with the power to make investments in telecommunications infrastructure.

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