Connect Americans Now (CAN): Key Questions for FCC Nominee on Broadband Innovation and Tackling the Digital Divide Ahead of Senate Hearing
November 9, 2020
Contact: Jon Conradi
Letter to U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Highlights Positive Progress Under Current Commission and Critical Solutions to Close the Broadband Gap
Washington, D.C. – Connect Americans Now (CAN) sent
a letter Monday to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee
on Commerce, Science and Transportation ahead of the Commission’s scheduled
hearing on November 10, 2020 to consider a nominee to the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC). The letter outlines a number of key policy
considerations and key questions pertaining to broadband connectivity and
tackling the digital divide.
“In the 21st
century economy, classroom and health care setting, broadband connectivity is
as essential as electricity or water. Yet, too many Americans remain stuck
behind the digital divide without access to broadband internet or without the
means to afford reliable service,” the letter states. “The Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) plays a critical role in implementing policies
to bridge the digital divide.”
“In recent years,
the FCC has taken commendable steps to address the broadband gap, including by:
Maximizing spectrum resources and clearing regulatory barriers to innovative
solutions like TV white space (TVWS); Advancing the Rural Digital Opportunity
Fund (RDOF) to direct $20.4 billion over ten years to finance broadband network
deployment in unserved areas; Implementing targeted programs established by
Congress to address known challenges like access to telehealth through the
Connected Care Pilot and COVID-19 Telehealth Program; Protecting Americans’
connectivity during the pandemic by issuing the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,”
the letter continues. “The confirmation of members of the Commission who share
a commitment to maximizing spectrum resources, including licensed and
unlicensed applications, clearing regulatory barriers to innovation, fixing the
nation’s mapping data on the digital divide and administering deployment
funding guided by key principles, including neutrality toward technology,
safeguards against overbuilding and rapid and cost-effective deployment, is of
Read the full letter HERE.
Key questions for
FCC nominee Nathan Simington outlined in the letter include:
- During its October 27, 2020 Open Meeting, the FCC unanimously voted to adopt a Report and Order to update rules regarding TV white space technology. TV white spaces are unused spectrum in the UHF television bands that are particularly well adapted to broadband deployments in rural areas. This powerful bandwidth enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees, making TVWS particularly well-suited for areas of low population density and challenging topographies.
- Do you support the adopted Report and Order on TVWS?
- As a Commissioner, what will you do to ensure these rules are implemented as soon as possible and to continue to support the realization of the full potential of this innovative technology as a solution to expand connectivity?
- What are the next steps the FCC should take to ensure there is adequate spectrum available to support the use of TVWS technology to enhance the reach and cost-effectiveness of broadband deployments?
- The most cost-effective approach to closing the digital divide in America involves a combination of “wired” and “wireless” technologies, including fiber-based technologies and terrestrial and satellite fixed and mobile wireless technologies, leveraging a range of frequencies. A study conducted by Boston Consulting Group found a hybrid network approach to closing the digital divide, leveraging every solution in the nation’s toolkit, can reduce the cost by as much as 80 percent.
- Do you believe funding mechanisms for broadband deployments and technology should be strictly technology-neutral and why?
- The FCC has made positive steps in recent years to maximize spectrum resources and clear regulatory barriers to innovation. In addition to the recent Report and Order on TVWS, the FCC has moved forward with plans to update rules surrounding the 6 GHz band and voted to make a portion of the 5.9 GHz band available for unlicensed broadband applications.
- How can the FCC build upon these steps to ensure adequate licensed and unlicensed spectrum resources are utilized to help eliminate the digital divide and in what bands do you see the potential for further action to support broadband innovation and connectivity?
- More precise broadband maps to accurately measure the full scale of the digital divide will better direct public and private investments in broadband deployments. There is bipartisan consensus in Congress and at the FCC that the current FCC broadband data maps are inaccurate. Earlier this year, Congress passed on a bipartisan basis and President Trump signed into law the Broadband DATA Act which will help more accurately measure the full scale of the digital divide through improved mapping data.
- As Commissioner, what steps would you take to ensure the full implementation of this bill and what barriers do you see to its swift implementation?
- What is your level of priority for eliminating the digital divide and what core principles would guide your approach to the issue of expanding broadband connectivity for unserved and underserved Americans?