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Bergman Bill: Make big tech pay into rural broadband

WASHINGTON — Today, Rep. Jack Bergman introduced new legislation called the Big Tech Accountability for Broadband Act to require Big Tech companies to finance rural broadband programs. The bill also calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider other ways to alleviate burdens on consumers without access to broadband services.

“Big Tech has been leeching off of key federal connectivity programs which bring more users to their platforms each day. It’s past time for the tech giants to chip in for federal broadband efforts while rural and remote communities in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula continue to lack sufficient internet access,” said Rep. Bergman. “Right now, working families struggling without meaningful connectivity are paying more into the Universal Service Fund than tech giants – so I’ve introduced the Big Tech Accountability for Broadband Act to right this wrong.”

The FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) finances roughly $9 billion worth of broadband support for rural areas, telehealth, schools and libraries, and low-income households each year. The USF is replenished by FCC fees on telecommunications carriers, which are usually passed on to their customers through phone bills.

The FCC collects fees from these carriers because they benefit from FCC services. Since the USF brings more consumers online access, Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook greatly benefit from FCC services as well, but they are not subject to these same fees.

To address this, the Big Tech Accountability for Broadband Act will specifically direct the FCC to levy fees on Big Tech companies for the purpose of funding the USF. This bill will also require the FCC to consider in its rulemaking a way to exempt telecommunications carrier customers from having to pay USF charges on their bills if the customer does not have access to broadband.

You can read the bill here.

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