NATaT Supports Initiatives to Accelerate Broadband Deployment
NATaT strongly encourages Congress and the Administration to include robust broadband deployment as part of an infrastructure package.
It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are communities and households in the U.S. that lack access to adequate broadband service, and a majority are located in rural America. In the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report released in January 2016, the FCC states “[a] persistent urban-rural digital divide has left 39 percent of the rural population without access to fixed broadband. By comparison, only 4 percent living in urban areas lack access.” The Report concluded that “[w]hile the nation continues to make progress in broadband deployment, advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans.”
NATaT supports initiatives that will ensure equitable access to high speed and expandable / scalable broadband service to areas that still lack access to this crucial resource.
NATaT supports “dig once” initiatives in Congress that would require conduit to be installed in any roadway construction project that uses federal funds (MOBILE NOW Act, S. 19*). This is but one solution to ensuring that broadband service is available to currently unserved and underserved areas.
NATaT supports the New Deal Rural Broadband Act, H.R. 800 that establishes a new Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives to coordinate and centralize all Federal rural broadband programs. The bill also authorizes $20 billion for new broadband infrastructure focused on rural communities and those without adequate access.
Finally, NATaT supports the Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017, S. 1104 that would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect broadband coverage data that provides a realistic understanding of the mobile broadband coverage currently available to rural consumers. This standardized data is necessary to ensure that policies to expand broadband deployment accurately target the unserved and underserved communities and account for the mobile coverage experience of those living in the most remote parts of the country. This bill would direct the FCC to establish a methodology to: (1) ensure that wireless coverage data is collected in a consistent and robust way; (2) improve the validity and reliability of wireless coverage data; and (3) increase the efficiency of wireless coverage data collection.
In an effort to protect our authority to make local permitting decisions, NATaT opposes the Highway Rights-of-Way Permitting Efficiency Act of 2017, S. 604. This measure would ease rights-of-way permitting processes that the telecommunications industry argues hinders the timely deployment of broadband networks in rural America. We do not support any efforts to bypass local decision-making authority and strongly believe that such permitting decisions lie squarely in the jurisdiction of local governments.
NATaT supports the efforts of the newly formed Rural Broadband Congressional Caucus launched by Representatives Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Bob Latta (R-OH), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Mark Pocan (D-MN), and Peter Welch (D-VT) to facilitate discussion, educate Members of Congress, and develop policy solutions to close the digital divide in rural America.
*“Dig once” provisions are included as an amendment to S. 19, the MOBILE NOW Act, related to available spectrum. NATaT is not taking a position on spectrum, but supports the “dig once” amendment that is included in the committee-passed bill.
To learn more, download the full policy paper.