WASHINGTON — Continuing its push to close the digital divide in rural America, the Federal Communications Commission set aside enforcement of rules that were unfairly driving up the cost of broadband service for the customers of certain rural providers.

Access to affordable broadband service is key to education, information, and economic development, and nowhere is the need more critical than in rural areas. Yet, current FCC rules impose disparate financial burdens on certain rural broadband providers, and in turn, increase the cost of broadband for their customers. Specifically, unlike all other internet access services providers, or ISPs, certain small, rural “rate-of-return” providers must pay into the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) fees on the revenues they earn from broadband Internet access transmission service. These fees ultimately get passed on to their customers and can add seven dollars or more a month to a subscriber’s bill.

To level the playing the field among all ISPs and reduce the cost of broadband in many rural areas, the FCC granted a petition for forbearance that will, in effect, waive the requirement for small, rural carriers to contribute to the USF on their broadband internet access transmission service revenues. The relief the FCC adopted today will make broadband service more affordable for these carriers’ customers in rural America.