U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, will convene a hearing titled, “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband,” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The hearing will explore the most effective and efficient ways to address broadband deployment to close the digital divide in an infrastructure package while reviewing the lessons learned from broadband infrastructure projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- The Honorable Gary Resnick, Mayor, City of Wilton Manors, Fla.
- Mr. Steve Berry, Chief Executive Officer, Competitive Carriers Association
- Mr. Bob DeBroux, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, TDS Telecom
- Mr. Brad Gillen, Executive Vice President, CTIA – The Wireless Association
- Mr. Mike Romano, Senior Vice President for Policy, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association
*Witness list subject to change.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roger Wicker
Today the Subcommittee will kick off a week of hearings in the Commerce Committee on rebuilding America’s infrastructure. We start here in the Communications Subcommittee with a focus on how to advance broadband deployment in infrastructure legislation this Congress. I am glad to convene this hearing with my colleague Ranking Member Schatz.
Broadband connectivity is the digital engine driving investment, innovation, and productivity in virtually every economic sector in the United States. Over the past decade, there have been unprecedented advancements in health care, agriculture, transportation, and many other industries because of increasingly ubiquitous broadband connections. These connections are helping industries reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and rapidly identify and act on opportunities for growth.
Continuing the success of these developments and maintaining the nation’s global leadership in technological innovation are goals that depend on widespread access to a reliable high-speed broadband connection. Although we have made significant progress on wireline, wireless, and satellite broadband deployments, more needs to be done. There is still a disparity in broadband deployment across the country, particularly in rural America. In its 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that “far too many Americans remain unable to access high-speed broadband Internet, and we have much work to do.”
To that end, I am greatly encouraged by the President’s support for programs directed toward increasing broadband infrastructure deployment in rural areas. Today, I hope to discuss with our witnesses how Congress can most effectively and efficiently deploy broadband infrastructure to unserved communities. Using the lessons learned earlier from broadband projects, President Trump’s infrastructure proposal is an opportunity to get broadband to communities that truly need it.
This process should start with collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists and where it does not – both in Mississippi and around the country. This is critical to delivering broadband to rural communities that lack service, whether that be through infrastructure legislation or existing federal programs like Phase II of the Mobility Fund. Inaccurate information of where broadband exists will only exacerbate the digital divide and leave millions of rural Americans further behind.
As we seek to close the broadband gap in rural America, we should also plan for the next generation of broadband, such as 5G. The availability of 5G communication networks promises to transform the way we experience the Internet because of the projected capacity, speed, and reliability. To make next-generation broadband a reality and position the United States so it can win the global race to 5G, we should modernize outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary costs to broadband infrastructure deployment. A bipartisan piece of legislation that I introduced called the “Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure,” or SPEED Act, does just that. Inaction on our part will take the next generation of jobs, innovation, and investment out of the United States and put us at an economic disadvantage with respect to our global competitors.
Clearly, as the FCC concluded in its report, there is much work to be done. We are almost one-fifth of the way through the 21st century. We ought to be able to accelerate the deployment of next-generation broadband, get all Americans connected now, and close the digital divide once and for all.
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.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Gary ResnickMayorCity of Wilton Manors, Fla
Mr. Steve BerryChief Executive OfficerCompetitive Carriers Association
Mr. Bob DeBrouxVice President of Regulatory AffairsTDS Telecom
Mr. Brad GillenExecutive Vice PresidentCTIA – The Wireless Association
Mr. Mike RomanoSenior Vice President for PolicyNTCA – The Rural Broadband Association