Legislators Push Administration on Broadband

Legislators from both houses of Congress and both sides of the aisle have written to President Donald Trump asking him to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative.

Trump has pledged to spend a trillion dollars on an infrastructure effort, but has not yet fleshed out a proposal

Forty-eight senators have signed onto a letter that asks the President to address infrastructure needs for the "deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband for all Americans," the office of Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has already promised to make closing the digital divide a priority of his chairmanship, Tuesday announcing the creation of an advisory committee to help with that effort by coming up with model codes to speed permitting and rights of way, and clearing away regulatory "red tape."

The senators said improving broadband access must be a priority of Congress, as well as the administration.

A similar letter, King's office said, was sent to Trump by the House Broadband Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio).

The Senate letter is reprinted in full below:

Dear Mr. President:

As you work with Congress to address the infrastructure needs of our country, we urge you to prioritize policies as part of any infrastructure initiative that will promote deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband for all Americans. Expanding access to broadband, both rural and urban, is the infrastructure challenge of our generation and we cannot afford to wait to make progress on this important goal. 

The internet has changed the way businesses reach their customers and workers do their jobs. From large companies that employ thousands to small businesses on Main Street, broadband access is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The internet expands opportunities for commerce and strengthens our economy. A broad agenda to promote broadband access will empower Americans living in every community – from urban city centers to rural towns – with economic opportunities that will jumpstart growth in jobs and wages. In fact, for every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000.

These benefits can only be fully realized when connections are fast, reliable, and affordable. That is why improving broadband access must be a priority in the 115th Congress and broadband must be part of any discussions regarding infrastructure investments to meet the demands of the 21st century economy. In addition, policies that reduce barriers to investment in communications infrastructure and streamline the deployment process will play a key role in expanding economic growth.

In order to maintain the United States’ position as a global leader for innovation, we must invest to expand our broadband infrastructure. This effort should include bringing broadband connections to locations where economic conditions or geography have made deployment difficult and improving the quality and affordability of existing broadband connections.

We look forward to working with you to expand broadband access to all Americans.

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.