Eshoo Outlines Keys to Broadband Buildout

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has a prescription for promoting infrastructure investment in broadband, the subject of a hearing Wednesday in the House Communications Subcommittee.

According to Eshoo's opening statement for the hearing, key ingredients are a "dig once" policy that includes laying broadband pipes during federal highway construction, something the President has advocated; better access to utility poles that reduce the cost for deployment, something the FCC and cable ops have advocated; freeing up more unlicensed spectrum, something Silicon Valley players in her district (and cable ops) have advocated; and the FCC's preemption of state laws limiting municipal broadband buildouts, something cable ops have opposed.

She argued those are necessary because "55 million Americans lack access to the broadband speeds needed to unlock everything the Internet has to offer."

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said that baseline speed needs to be at least 25 Mbps, which is the commission's new aspirational target for a definition of high-speed broadband. 

"Equally alarming," she said, "is the fact that more than half of U.S. households have just one choice for high-speed broadband service." She called last year's $46 billion investment in broadband by the top cable and telecom companies impressive, but said that still put the country 17th on a list of global Internet speeds.

Eshoo says those are not a cure-all, but said they are steps she thinks both Democrats and Republicans can support, though that is an optimistic view on preemption since Republican leaders have not been reticent on their dislike of preemption of state laws by the FCC.

Notably, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the Communications Subcommittee—Eshoo is ranking member—and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, have argued "the history of municipal Internet access is littered with many costly failures that no one wants to repeat."

John Eggerton

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.