WTAS: FCC Commissioners And Lawmakers Agree More Must Be Done To Close The Digital Divide Quickly and Efficiently

U.S. House Hearing Puts Focus on Affordability and Accurate Maps as Critical to Permanently Closing the Broadband Gap in Every American Community

On Thursday, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing – “Connecting America: Oversight of the FCC” – giving policymakers an opportunity to discuss Federal Communications Commission (FCC) efforts to eliminate the digital divide in every American community.

Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, along with FCC commissioners agreed that the Commission has made positive strides in the right direction toward closing the broadband gap, but more must be done to ensure people in every community are connected quickly and efficiently. Federal programs, such as the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), have been instrumental in helping millions of people afford monthly broadband services. Lawmakers also emphasized the need for the FCC to finalize accurate broadband maps to ensure federal programs effectively reach unserved and underserved Americans.

Several lawmakers also highlighted the critical importance of an all-of-the-above approach to maximize the cost-effectiveness of broadband deployment programs that avoids picking winners and losers and puts emphasis on connecting truly unserved communities first.

Read what lawmakers and FCC commissioners had to say in their submitted testimonies and during the hearing:

Representative Michael Doyle (D-PA-18), Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology:

“Broadband is an essential, necessary service for Americans, for their jobs, for schooling, for health care and for civic participation in our country. With this in mind, Congress made historic investments through the CARES Act, the 2020 omnibus and the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to connect our schools, students, low-income households, tribal communities and those in need of health care services. This makes the FCC’s position as the national regulatory authority on broadband more important than ever. Under the bipartisan work of this FCC, enormous strides have been made in the adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program as nearly 11 million households have signed up, the Emergency Connectivity Fund has already put over five billion dollars towards connectivity for our nation’s schools, libraries and students and I commend the commission for getting this money out quickly and efficiently.”

Representative Robert Latta (R-OH-05), Ranking Member, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology:

“We need to continue to focus on deploying broadband where it doesn’t exist. As agencies implement programs authorized in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it’s imperative we do not pick winners and losers. Let me say that again, we cannot pick winners and losers.”

Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce:

“Over the past two years, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband and connectivity has proven essential to everyone’s lives and that’s not going to change. Whether it’s telework, telehealth, commerce or video calls with friends and family, high speed, reliable broadband services are fundamental. Not just to our daily connections but also economic opportunity and American global leadership. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also highlighted the massive disparities faced by individuals and families without reliable home internet access.”

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05), Ranking Member, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce:

“It is crucial the FCC complete the [broadband] maps as soon as possible and share the data with agencies that were awarded broadband funds. We need to make sure the money gets to where it’s needed. We need to make sure recipients can deploy quickly and efficiently. All agencies awarded broadband funding should use these maps to get it right.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel:

“Broadband access is essential for full participation in modern life. When we masked up and hunkered down, we relied on communications to stay working, stay healthy, stay informed, stay in school, stay in touch and stay entertained. But as we leave this period, we need to acknowledge that the connected world we’ve relied on is not going away. High-speed internet access is no longer just nice-to-have. It is need-to-have for everyone, everywhere.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr:

“On the infrastructure front, there is also more the FCC can do. To start, one of the most important steps that the FCC can take is to complete our work on accurate, updated maps. Getting those maps done is going to be key to ensuring that we properly target the billions of dollars in federal funds that are now available for broadband.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks:

“In particular, Americans of color remain, by a wide margin, less likely to have a home broadband connection than their counterparts. The Pew Research Center has found that 29 percent of Black adults and 35 percent of Latinx adults do not have a home broadband connection. We must meet the disconnected where they are. For tens of millions of Americans, the price for broadband is just too high. A recent study by Education Superhighway found that 18.1 million households, home to 47 million people, remain offline simply because they cannot afford an internet connection. Millions more have made difficult sacrifices to keep their broadband service. No family should have to choose between keeping the lights on and a broadband connection, but we know that they do. The Affordable Connectivity Program is changing that.”

Representative Greg Pence (R-IN-06):

“Rural communities are left at a disadvantage because of a lack of access to broadband service. Certainly, in my Indiana 6th district that is the case. Too many of my constituents throughout Southeast Indiana remain unserved not underserved. Totally unserved by broadband providers. That means access to telehealth, online education, remote work, opportunities and social connections with family and friends are simply out of reach. If we’re going to close the digital divide with federal resources the FCC should prioritize, in my opinion, parts of the country that remain unserved before upgrading existing networks in covered areas like my Indianapolis.”

Representative Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09):

“These past couple of years have highlighted why it’s so important to make sure everyone who wants reliable broadband access at home is able to get it. However, for too many people in my district the cost of monthly services is really just too high. I’m proud that Congress has made a historic investment to help low-income Americans afford broadband through the Affordable Connectivity Fund which is helping over 1.2 million Californians. It’s also very important for students to have reliable broadband access in their homes, the Emergency Connectivity Fund has brought over 10 million dollars to schools and libraries in my own district.”

Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC-08):

“One of the things I hear all the time from my constituents back home in North Carolina is a lack of adequate access to broadband. This hearing is important to my constituents and to all of our constituents. You, the FCC are on the precipice of making decades long decisions which can propel our nation into the next century by giving our children the ability to learn from anywhere, disrupting telecommunications strongholds by China, providing lifesaving treatments through telehealth, telemedicine and making places like Carthage, Sanford and yes Barbecue, North Carolina, the epicenter of global commerce … my concern is that guardrails in recent funding bills could’ve been a lot stronger. In my view government subsidized overbuilding will create distortions in the marketplace and allow the government to pick winners and losers with unserved and difficult to reach communities getting the short end of the stick.”

Watch the full hearing HERE.

Learn more about CAN and our mission HERE.


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