U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Tuesday called for swift and direct federal investments to help rural Floridians get increased access to quality and affordable internet service. Nelson, who serves as the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, made his remarks during a hearing held in Washington that explored the need for federal funding to expand internet service nationwide.
Nelson pointed to rural Florida communities such as Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties as areas where many residents struggle to find or afford quality internet service.
“In those areas, students often lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered,” said Nelson. “We have to close this digital divide and leave no area of this country behind. That’s why I have wanted to include significant direct investments in broadband deployment in any federal infrastructure legislation.”
Today’s hearing is part of a series of discussions underway in the Senate to develop an infrastructure package aimed at fixing and modernizing the nation’s aging roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband networks.
Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks as prepared and a link to a video of his speech: https://youtu.be/05V0TzKgLsI
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Hearing
“Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband”
March 13, 2018
Florida boasts some of the nation’s most advanced broadband networks. But we have pockets of the state – both in rural areas, such as Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties, and even in some cities – where citizens have little to no access to quality and affordable internet service.
In those areas, students often lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered.
We have to close this digital divide and leave no area of this country behind. That’s why I have wanted to include significant direct investments in broadband deployment in any federal infrastructure legislation. Because the administration’s proposal is woefully inadequate on this point, it is incumbent on this committee to work together to provide these critical investments.
As I have said in the past, everyone – from those of us in the Senate to our mayors and local officials around the country – want Americans to benefit from the availability of robust broadband.
Building these networks has always raised a number of very sensitive issues – from historic preservation and environmental concerns to state and local land use policies, tribal sovereignty and national security.
And the highly anticipated 5G wireless technology brings with it networks that will require installation of much denser wireless infrastructure, made up of many more small cell facilities.
I remain open to a reasoned discussion about these regulatory issues.
But, to me, that reasoned discussion cannot begin and end with a wiping away of key laws and regulations meant to protect our fellow citizens and important federal, state, local, and tribal interests – steps that the FCC seems keen to take.
And that discussion must include fair and fulsome input from all affected parties, including states and localities. That’s why I am pleased that Mayor Resnick of Wilton Manors, Florida, is here yet again to provide the committee with an important local government perspective and expertise.
I continue to hope that all stakeholders, including those represented before us today, can work together to help us find ways to effectively balance the competing concerns about siting and construction of broadband facilities and consumers’ increasing demand for fast and reliable broadband services. I know I will be looking for that sort of balanced approach.