FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is praising the various broadband-related elements of both the omnibus must-pass federal government funding bill and the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, both of which he said "advance critical national priorities in communications policy."
Those include funding a suspect telecom rip-and-replace that Congress mandated the FCC institute and funding for the FCC's Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DOCD) initiative to come up with better broadband deployment maps, both Congressional mandates on issues the FCC was independently addressing, but pushing for Hill funding for the mandates.
Of the DOCD initiative, he said: "This is a critical step toward the FCC being able to implement both Phase II of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund as well as the 5G Fund for Rural America that the Commission adopted earlier this year, which together will offer over $20 billion to support high-speed broadband in rural America. I would like to thank Chairman Wicker, in particular, for his strong leadership in securing this funding."
He also praised the additional $250 million the legislation provides for more telehealth connectivity, "which will allow us to approve many more applications to expand connected care throughout the country and enable patients to access necessary health care services while staying safe," Pai said.
The bill also mandates the repeal of the T-Band auction, which Pai opposed and would have required taking spectrum for first responders for an auction he has said was "bound to fail."
Commissioner and likely soon to be acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, praised the broadband provisions but said more was needed.
"[T]his legislative effort also includes much-needed funding for the Federal Communications Commission to map the full extent of the digital divide, to support telehealth efforts during the pandemic, and to secure communications by replacing vulnerable equipment in our networks. In addition, it authorizes the auction of mid-band spectrum and protects key airwaves used by first responders. Plus, there are promising new initiatives at the Mational Telecommunications and Information Administration to help connect Tribal lands and minority communities.
"This legislation is only a start, but it is important because it is the beginning of what needs to be
a national effort to connect 100% of us to broadband.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.