GOP ComSubcom Members Outline Broadband Infrastructure Priorities

In the wake of the Trump Administration declaration of rural broadband buildouts as a key infrastructure goal, the House Communications Subcommittee leadership has unveiled their legislative priorities for broadband buildouts, and targeting "unserved" areas is chief among them.

Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who was a Trump transition team member and who was in attendance for the President's rural broadband announcement at a speech in Nashville this week, released a set of four resolutions that she signaled represent the groundwork for the larger legislative lift on broadband infrastructure.

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In addition to directing funding to currently unserved areas, rather than, say, underserved, which raises the specter of overbuilding existing plant based on however "underserved is defined, the resolutions are to "ensure federal policy treats all broadband providers in a technology-neutral manner, applying consistent rules that support innovation; to "ensure wireless broadband infrastructure funding preference for states that support small cell siting reform, helping ease the permitting process in communities across the country; and to "ensure Federal, state, and local tax, regulatory, permitting, and other requirements are coordinated and reconciled to maximize the benefits of broadband investment."

The President this week signed two executive orders that make it easier to site communications equipment on federal lands.

"With 39 percent of rural Americans living with insufficient access to broadband internet, we need to focus on innovation, investment, and eliminating the barriers to deployment. The resolutions introduced today help lay the groundwork for more legislative action to come," said Blackburn. "Our work on broadband infrastructure could mean the difference between a child completing her homework at home, and her parents driving out to a library so she can connect to the public Wi-Fi. I look forward to continued bipartisan efforts on this issue that will help communities across rural America thrive.”

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“Members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee today sent a clear message that broadband is central to our nation’s infrastructure," said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. "These “broadband first” resolutions will pave the way to efficient and effective broadband deployment – the backbone of all communications from ground to cloud to 5G and beyond. This is great news for consumers and our global competitiveness.”

“Efforts to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure should include the expansion and deployment of broadband in order to help close the ‘digital divide’ that exists between rural and urban communities,” said Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), who sponsored the "technological neutrality resolution. “In that same vein, it’s important that we establish a world class communication network that contains a robust and diverse mix of wireline, wireless, cable, and other technologies. As Congress begins to discuss an infrastructure package, it’s important that we treat different forms of technology equally in order to meet our communications needs. Increasing access to high-speed Internet is an economic and quality of life issue for rural communities across the country.”

"I commend the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Representative Marsha Blackburn, for its leadership in promoting broadband infrastructure deployment," said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has put his vote where his sentiments are in FCC efforts to ease tower citings and promote broadband buildouts ( "As the four resolutions introduced today by Vice Chairman Leonard Lance, Chairman Bob Latta, Representative Richard Hudson, and Representative Gus Bilirakis recognize, broadband is key to job creation and economic growth. So I applaud Chairman Blackburn and the Subcommittee for their continued focus on removing barriers to broadband buildout. These efforts will help ensure that all Americans—regardless of where they live—can benefit from next-generation technologies."

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.