WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Congressman Tom Tiffany (WI-07) introduced H.R. 9445, the ACCESS Rural America Act, to ensure rural telecommunication providers are not hindered by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) registration and reporting requirements. This legislation will allow smaller, locally-owned telecommunication providers to expand broadband access in rural areas across the United States without fear of burdening regulations intended for large corporations.
“After hearing from rural telecommunication providers in Western and Northern Wisconsin that the Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements were impeding them from building more fiber broadband networks, I knew something needed to be done,” said Congressman Tom Tiffany. “I will continue to do everything possible to ensure our small telecommunication providers have the ability to supply rural America with the broadband access they deserve.”
“Federal Securities and Exchange Commission registration and reporting requirements intended for larger, publicly-traded firms pose significant challenges for, and can impose substantial burdens on, smaller, locally-owned companies with limited resources. NTCA greatly appreciates the leadership of Representative Tom Tiffany (R-WI) in introducing the ACCESS Rural America Act, which will help relieve these burdens and enable small providers to focus more on their core mission of deploying and operating advanced broadband networks in rural areas,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.
Lakeland Communications and other rural broadband providers are extremely pleased and optimistic that Congressman Tiffany can lead to effect long overdue change to a 20-year-old law of Sarbanes Oxley that shackles community based broadband providers. Much of rural Wisconsin and the nation need state-of-the-art fiber optic network access that we could possibly provide if we were not under the additional burdens of SEC and the costly restrictions of federal regulations that we have endured for 20 years. We hope and pray that Congressman Tiffany and his colleagues will be successful in this needed legislation to provide beneficial relief,” said John K. Klatt President, CEO Lakeland Communications.
The ACCESS Rural America Act would address an issue that companies have been facing since the early 2000s. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law in 2002 and established extensive regulations for companies. Due to the broad-brush approach that this law created, many smaller, locally-owned businesses are burdened by enhanced SEC registration and reporting requirements as a result. For example, if a small telecommunications company in Wisconsin is helping deploy networks in rural areas but has 500 or more not-accredited shareholders, then it must comply with the regulations set forth by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and spend substantial amounts of money and resources on these reporting requirements to the SEC every year. H.R. 9445 would increase the number of investors that prompts the SEC public reporting requirements from 500 to 2,000 persons for rural telecommunications companies receiving federal universal service support. This will help alleviate pressure on many of the businesses that are helping bridge the digital divide across America.
The full text of the ACCESS Rural America Act can be found here.