Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Reviewing the National Broadband Plan

April 14, 2010

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—Broadband is more than a technology—it is a platform for social and economic opportunity. With broadband networks we can change the way we approach job creation, education, health care, and entertainment. We can change the way we connect with our communities—and the world.

That’s why last year I fought to make sure the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included programs designed to bring broadband to everyone in this country—no matter who they are, no matter where they live.

The Recovery Act included two major initiatives:

  • A grant program to spur the adoption and deployment of broadband; and
  • A broadband plan for the nation, developed by the FCC.

It’s the broadband plan that we are here to discuss today. The FCC released the National Broadband Plan last month. And like many of my colleagues, I joined the chorus singing praise for this effort. I think the document is a great start, but I also have some concerns.

Back in October, when we held a hearing to discuss the broadband grant programs, I spoke about the prospects for the broadband plan. I said I wanted to see concrete action on the day the plan is delivered. Because I believe we need real broadband solutions for real people. And we need them now. A mere menu of options for the FCC and the Congress with far off timeframes is not good enough. I believed that in October, and I believe it now.

The report has over 200 recommendations. But it takes no action. It is long on vision, but short on tactics. So I am going to challenge the FCC. I am going to challenge the FCC to make the hard choices that will help bring broadband to every corner of this country. Putting ideas on paper is not enough. Just seeking comment on a slew of issues is not enough. It’s action that counts.

Let me tell you why. In West Virginia, one in five households lack access to broadband service. As this plan notes, only 71 percent of the state’s population has access to 3G wireless service. Every day that goes by, communities without broadband in West Virginia and every other state risk falling further behind.

In this new century, universal broadband service is the promise of a fair shot at economic opportunity. It is the promise of educational equality and affordable health care. And it opens the door, to participate in our democratic dialogue with dignity, no matter who you are or where you live.

Before I conclude my remarks, let me take a minute to mention last week’s decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. No doubt, this ruling adds to the complexities of the FCC’s task, but for me, two things are clear.

First, in the near-term, I want the agency to use all of its existing authority to protect consumers and pursue the broad objectives of the broadband plan. Second, in the long-term, if there is a need to rewrite the law to provide consumers, the FCC, and industry with a new framework, I will take that task on.

In closing, I appreciate the challenges before the FCC. And I look forward to the Chairman’s testimony about how we will move ahead—together—and bring the wonders of broadband to every community in this country.