Remarks of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to Next Century Cities Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy 2020

In 2020 and beyond, my principal focus will be ensuring that our communications networks and technologies support security, privacy, and our democratic values. Internet inequality is a persistent problem that is only growing in urgency. Low-income people, people of color, and people in rural areas either aren’t getting online or are making great sacrifices to get connected. For example, according to a Pew Research study, only 45 percent of adults with incomes under $30,000 have broadband at home. Solving this problem is a moral imperative. But it is also essential to our global competitiveness going forward.

I think we need to make some important changes to the Universal Service Fund if we’re going to finish the job of bringing access to all Americans. First, we have to fix the Federal Communications Commission’s data on where broadband is and is not. Second, we haven’t done enough to ensure that once broadband is available, families can actually afford it. I think the FCC can do much more to promote affordability, including—at the very minimum—gathering and studying price information so we can have an accurate picture of the marketplace consumers are facing. Finally, we need to envision the connectivity needs of the future—and build toward them. I’ve called for the FCC to conduct a data-driven 10-year look-back on how our high cost programming has performed. Universal Service dollars are too scarce and too badly needed to be spent building the networks of the best.

Commissioner Starks Remarks to Next Century Cities