Connect Americans Now (CAN): Key Questions for FCC and NTIA Nominees on How to Bridge America’s Digital Divide

Hearing Provides Lawmakers and Nominees Opportunity to Add to Unprecedented Momentum to Increase Digital Equity & Eliminate the Broadband Gap

Press Release
November 30, 2021
Contact: Jon Conradi
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Connect Americans Now (CAN) executive director Richard T. Cullen released the following statement ahead of a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday to consider Gigi Sohn for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Alan Davidson for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“CAN congratulates Gigi Sohn and Alan Davidson on their nominations and encourages both the nominees and lawmakers to use the upcoming confirmation hearing to highlight critical solutions to permanently eliminate the digital divide and add to the unprecedented momentum for action,” Cullen said. “If confirmed, both nominees will serve in roles critical to the successful implementation of solutions to ensure every American has access to an affordable, reliable broadband connection and the digital devices and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.”

Key Questions for Alan Davidson, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA):

  • In your questionnaire, you noted that “it will be essential for NTIA to administer grants, oversee funds, and manage its operational and advisory efforts in compliance with the law and with the greatest of integrity.” Congress recently passed, and President Biden signed into law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that dedicates $42 billion to fund state grants for broadband deployment to be administered by the NTIA.
    • Do you believe rules that will guide distribution of broadband deployment resources administered by the NTIA under this law should go through a full public comment period to allow for stakeholders and the public to provide input and to ensure full transparency?
  • If confirmed, what key principles do you believe are most important to implement in the administration of these resources to maximize their benefit and ensure the greatest number of unserved and underserved Americans gain access to an affordable and reliable broadband connection?
    • Do you agree that funds should be focused connecting the greatest number of Americans to affordable and reliable broadband service as quickly as possible so long as there are clear requirements that service meet at least the FCC-defined speed for broadband?
    • We have seen various methods of broadband deployments from wired and wireless technologies to now even satellites. How important is it that the NTIA remain technology neutral when allocating funds to close the digital divide, not favoring one type of technology of another to ensure an all-of-the-above approach is used to connect every American as soon as possible?
  • How do you believe NTIA, and states, should navigate existing challenges regarding the accuracy of mapping data in the allocation of funding resources for broadband deployment?

Key Questions for Gigi Sohn, Nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

  • In your questionnaire submitted to the Committee, you rightly said, “the FCC’s top challenge is ensuring every household in the U.S. has affordable and robust broadband Internet access” and that closing the digital divide requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach.
    • If confirmed, how will you approach this vital national mission? What is your view on how programs and tools available to the FCC can be improved or strengthened to expand broadband deployment, adoption and skills training?
  • The broadband gap disproportionately impacts communities of color. 35 percent of Latino adults and 29 percent of African American adults lack a broadband connection at home. What can the FCC do to help address this stark divide that not only exacerbates systemic challenges but hinders the economic progress of the entire nation?
  • The 21st century economy is becoming increasingly dependent on digital technology but nearly one-third of Americans aged 16 to 64 have no or very limited digital skills. How important is it for Americans to have the digital skills necessary to succeed in an evolving workforce if we are going to be able to maintain America’s competitive edge in the global economy — and what can the FCC do to expand the availability of digital skills in communities that need them most?
  • Last year, Congress authorized, and the FCC implemented, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Fund which has helped more than six million households afford broadband service during the pandemic.
    • Do you agree the demand for this program demonstrates the vital need for adoption programs to ensure Americans can afford broadband service and digital devices in every community?
    • This program was permanently authorized in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Biden last month. Can you discuss how the FCC will implement this permanent program and what learnings from the emergency authorization will be applied to help the greatest number of Americans get connected?
  • The FCC continues to work on more accurate and comprehensive broadband mapping, authorized by Congress through the bipartisan Broadband DATA Act, to better track the nation’s progress against the digital divide.
    • Do you agree accurate mapping of the digital divide is vitally important to achieve a national goal of ensuring Americans in every community have access to the broadband service and digital technology needed to succeed in the 21st century economy and classroom?
    • What challenges still exist for the FCC’s implementation of broadband mapping solutions and is there more Congress can do to support successful development of accurate maps?

Founded in 2017, Connect Americans Now (CAN) is a broad-based coalition of more than 300 companies and organizations representing leading voices in agriculture, education, health care, veterans’ issues, technology and small business — committed to urgent action to completely eliminate the digital divide in every American community.

Read what policymakers said about solutions to close the broadband gap and improve digital equity during the November 17 confirmation hearing for Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as Permanent Chairwoman of the FCC HERE.

Learn more about Connect Americans Now and solutions to permanently bridge the digital divide HERE.


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