Home » Uncategorized » Streamlining deployment of high-speed broadband could help close the digital divide

When he was nominated to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Ajit Pai laid down a marker – one of his top priorities would be to close the digital divide that threatens the opportunities and aspirations of too many of our citizens:

“Since my first day as Chairman of the FCC, I’ve said repeatedly that my number one priority is closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of the Internet age to all Americans.” – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Last week, the FCC made a down payment on that pledge – voting to streamline the process to deploy “small cell” 5G wireless to free up capital and speed delivery of high speed access to previously un-served areas. It is not a complete solution, and it is not a perfect plan, but it is an important step forward on this vital priority.

Ahead of this vote, and in partnership with other organizations, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) hosted a fireside chat, with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr that explored these challenges. Participants acknowledged that streamlining deployment of high-speed broadband could be a vital step towards closing the digital divide, improving connectivity for all Americans, creating jobs and boosting growth in under-served and disadvantaged communities around the country.

At the same time, it is clear that solving the digital divide will require an approach that includes all stakeholder voices and uses every technology, tool, and strategy available. In our interconnected network environment, no technology or industry can afford to do it alone. Thus, while many shorthand 5G as a “wireless” service, in fact it involved extensive fiber backhaul and is built atop a national wired backbone.

Streamlining rules for new infrastructure could be vital to closing the digital divide and a boon for jobs and the economy as well, but to ensure all Americans get access to broadband, it should be done in an evenhanded, technology-neutral manner. One that spurs competition between network builders and creates incentives for all forms of new innovation and deployment. In addition, given the complexity of this undertaking, we hope that the Commission continues to take into account the feedback and concerns from all key stakeholders to ensure all aspects are considered.

We are encouraged by the FCC’s progress on the digital divide, and urge even broader pro-competitive support for every component of our nation’s broadband infrastructure to boost new investment and speed deployment of new solutions for all of America’s communities.

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