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#SubCommTech Talks FCC Reauthorization and Importance of Broadband Deployment

Jul 25, 2017
This Hearing Allowed Members to Discuss Importance of Reauthorizing the FCC and Improving Rural Broadband Opportunities for Americans

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), today held a hearing to discuss the agency’s effort to facilitate broadband deployment and streamline regulations to better reflect the realities of the internet age.  FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly joined the subcommittee to provide an update on the agency’s work over the course of the last several months.

Opening up the hearing, Chairman Blackburn reiterated the importance in reauthorizing, and reforming the FCC stating, “The FCC has not been reauthorized since 1990 and its current appropriation is over 430 million dollars.  It is charged with administration of the Communications Act and other statutes vital to the functioning of our communications policy.  We must reexamine the core functions of the Commission and restore a culture of humility that was lacking under the regulatory cloud left by Chairman Wheeler.”

The three FCC Commissioners testify before the Communications & Technology Subcommittee.

In his testimony, FCC Commissioner O’Rielly discussed the need to expand broadband opportunities to more Americans, while also touching on some of the barriers to deployment. “To succeed at this next challenge, wireless providers are going to need two important ingredients: access to a sufficient mix of spectrum bands and reduced barriers to the installation of wireless equipment. While the Commission has been actively reallocating existing bands for mobile purposes -- with hopefully more to come -- there remains obstacles imposed by state, local and tribal governments that are hampering the ability of providers to serve Americans.” He continued, “For example, some governmental entities are delaying approval of wireless siting based on illegitimate reasons, such as aesthetics and RF, and using their powers to ensure maximum revenue generation.”

When asked by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) about whether or not mobile broadband can fulfil the gaps in some unserved areas across our country, Commissioner Clyburn said, “Mobile broadband is definitely necessary…especially in those households where they can only afford one connection.” She continued, “Mobile broadband has to be front and center, which is why we are moving to the next phase of a mobility fund… We need to go where the people are. Over 300 million of us have mobile connectivity but it is [connectivity] not all created equal.”

Click here or on the image above to view this video.

Also echoing the importance of improving broadband connectivity, Chairman Pai expressed similar sentiments on the agency’s commitment to furthering this priority. In an exchange with Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Chairman Pai relayed his personal connectivity problems when traveling between Madelia, Minnesota and Sioux City, Iowa. “… I mean how many times I had to mention to my colleague in the car, ‘Oh, we’re just going to have to talk now because we have the inability to check emails or make phone calls and the like. It was really a gap, and that was just for our own convenience. Imagine if you’re a patient who needs to make a 911 call or imagine if you’re a farmer whose productivity depends on having precision agriculture, which in turn relies on connectivity. Those are the connections that really do matter, so [improving connectivity] isn’t just a professional interest for me or my colleagues but it’s a personal interest for me as a rural American to make sure that your constituents and all rural Americans get that connectivity.”

Full Committee Chairman Greg Walden announced during his opening remarks that a Full Committee hearing entitled, “Ground Rules for the Internet Ecosystem” would be scheduled for Thursday, September 7 at 10 a.m. in 2123 of Rayburn House Office Building.  Underscoring the necessity of the upcoming September hearing, Chairman Walden concluded today’s opening statement by saying, “…Chairman Pai has commenced a proceeding to examine returning the regulation of the internet to the bipartisan framework that made it the economic engine that it is. As we wait for this process to take its course, the future of the greatest economic engine of modern times is clouded by uncertainty, with a growing recognition that the time is now for legislative action. We offered a way forward on net neutrality in 2015. I believe now, as I did then, that we should work together to write bipartisan legislation to protect the internet from bad actors who want to use their unfair advantage to block, throttle or in other ways engage in bad behavior. The American people deserve no less.”

For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, click HERE.