Pai Talks Rural Broadband

American Cable Association President Matt Polka and top ACA policy staffer Ross Lieberman were among a group of execs representing rural broadband executives who met with new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Thursday, his second meeting with outside groups since being named chairman this week.

It was a continuation of Pai's pledge to focus on closing the digital divide. He met Wednesday with a diverse group of stakeholders in the broadband deployment space.

Also at the meeting were Mike Romano of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Alex Phillips and Stephen Coran from the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, Steve Berry and Rebecca Murphy Thompson of the Competitive Carriers Association and Martha Duggan of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

According to an FCC official, "Participants raised several ideas for closing the digital divide and expressed strong support for proposals he made as part of his Digital Empowerment Agenda."

For his part, Pai at the meeting "pledged to continue working closely with these organizations to bring digital opportunity to all Americans."

Pal said in his first address to FCC officials that closing the divide would be a "core" priority of a Pai FCC.

For the new chairman, rural broadband access is about economic equal opportunity. It is an issue that has long been in his sights.

Back in October, he talked at length on the subject at a Think Big Partners event in his home state of Kansas.

'[T]here are still far too many parts of this country where broadband is unaffordable, inadequate, or nonexistent—where it’s harder to start a business, improve one’s life, build a community," he said.

Sadly, there is a real and growing digital divide in this country. Although gigabit services and mobile broadband are becoming common features of wealthier, metropolitan areas, they aren’t universal. Almost 34 million Americans don’t have access to the broadband networks needed to fully participate in the digital economy.  It’s no surprise that access tracks income: Americans living in the poorest counties are twice as likely to lack access as those living in the most well-to-do."

This isn’t how it should be. Every American who wants high-speed Internet access should be able to get it.  Every consumer should have affordable choices in a competitive marketplace..."

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.