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Black Churches Back Tech Neutral Broadband Buildouts

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(Image credit: Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

The Conference of National Black Churches along with five other groups representing Black clergy and congregations, has called on the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to allow the $40 billion-plus broadband subsidy money it is handing out to states to be used for whatever technology -- fiber, wireless, etc. -- best fits their communities.

That came in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and NTIA administrator Alan Davidson. NTIA has been given the primary oversight role of the broadband subsidies in the President's -- and Congress' -- massive infrastructure plan.

"America’s mosaic of diverse people and communities argues for the government’s deployment of broadband to be done in a way that takes advantage of diverse technology options that will provide the best broadband services across remote and underserved areas," they said.

The Biden Administration has suggested fiber to the home get priority status in the subsidy handouts, but has not ruled out other technologies so long as they provide sufficient speeds and quality.

In a February letter to Davidson, groups including Connect America Now called on the Biden Administration to use a technology-neutral approach to handing out billions in broadband funding as a way to make sure those buildouts can handle “differing levels of infrastructure, as well as differing topographies and population densities.”

The administration has been signaling that it prefers fiber buildouts but the groups said everything from wired to wireless to fixed wireless to satellite broadband should have a shot at the money. That, they said, “allows for rapid deployment of broadband network solutions and maximizes the reach of government dollars in building networks and connecting consumers.”

A tech-neutral approach is the best one for several reasons, they argue, including that it gives providers the flexibility to use the most cost-effective approach, will help them deploy rapidly and will cut down on the likelihood of overbuilding incumbent providers, though the administration is anticipating some overbuilding will happen in order to reach the unserved while staying in business. ■

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.