Lawmakers Emphasize Flexibility and Prioritizing Unserved Communities as Administration Implements Programs Targeting the Broadband Gap
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband held a hearing — “Oversight of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration” — giving lawmakers an opportunity to discuss the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) approach to implementing broadband programs established by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The hearing comes shortly after NTIA released guidelines for its implementation of the agency’s broadband programs and the funding opportunities for states.
Members of the Senate subcommittee, from both sides of the aisle, along with NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson noted the NTIA’s historic opportunity to make substantial progress toward bridging the digital divide and highlighted the importance of ensuring states and broadband providers have the flexibility they need to connect the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. Lawmakers also emphasized prioritizing unserved communities to avoid leaving anyone stuck further behind the digital divide.
Read what lawmakers and Administrator Davidson had to say:
Alan Davidson, Administrator, NTIA:
“Gaps in broadband availability and in adoption, even where the infrastructure is available, mean gaps in opportunity: fewer opportunities to learn and work from home, remotely visit doctors, or stay connected with family and friends. Achieving an equitable future means ensuring that homes and businesses have high-quality connections at affordable prices, and the means to use them. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $65 billion to help deliver affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet to every American and help close the digital divide…. And the number one thing we do want and we do want states to do is reward those who can each people, reach the most people with the most affordable and best broadband that they can…”
“We do believe there should be technology neutrality and the truth is the notice does allow for other technologies to be used too…we fully expect the program will be implemented with mixes of technology and that each state will choose for itself what that mix looks like. Some states will have more fiber, we expect there will be fixed wireless, we expect there will be low orbit satellites and different states will make those choices, so we believe on a whole, the notice does allow that flexibility and therefore neutral and that was our approach to it…”
“Well, we do expect that for different states, different states will have different mixes of technology, you heard a little bit of that answer, we talked about that as well.”
Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member:
“NTIA should work on allowing states to adopt a technology neutral approach and allow equal participation from all types of broadband providers as long as they’ve met the objective technical, financial and operational standards to deploy networks.”
Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Chair:
“…NTIA must stay focused on closing the digital divide for all Americans. Broadband access relies on both availability and adoption. For some communities, affordability has been and will remain the most pressing obstacle for ensuring adoption. For others, ensuring availability through high-quality, future-proof fiber is the solution. And for others, deployment of wireless technology capable across challenging terrain must be prioritized. No single solution is going to work for all Americans and I’m glad to see the administrator understands this, recognizes this and that’s how we’re moving forward…”
Senator Todd Young (R-IN):
“I’d like to start with your commitment to focus on broadband funding on unserved areas as opposed to underserved areas. Closing the digital divide of course won’t be possible without ensuring these unserved areas are served before a single dollar is focused on the underserved.”
Watch the full hearing HERE.
Read CAN’s statement ahead of the hearing calling on policymakers to capitalize on the opportunity to discuss how to maximize the positive impact of NTIA broadband programs HERE.
Read CAN’s recent letter, co-signed by 35 organizations, to NTIA on how the Administration can maximize federal broadband resources HERE.
Learn more about CAN and our mission HERE.