Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
According to recent National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) survey data, roughly 28 million households in the United States still do not use the Internet at home (Goldberg, 2019). In its survey, the NTIA also asked why households did not use the Internet at home, with 58 percent citing a lack of interest as their main reason for being offline and every fifth household (21%) stating that it is too expensive.
On May 29, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission released the 2019 Broadband Deployment Report. For the second consecutive year, the FCC concluded that broadband is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to report annually on the availability of advanced telecommunications capability (broadband) to all Americans and to determine if broadband services are being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.
In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission released its eighth Broadband Deployment Report (the "706 report") and found that approximately 19 million Americans at the end of 2011 lacked access to high-speed internet access. The FCC concluded that "broadband is not yet being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion." On May 29, 2019, the FCC distributed a press release summarizing findings from its revised 2019 Broadband Deployment Report and stated that at the end of 2017, 21.3 million Americans lacked access to broadband networks.
The Federal Communications Commission is charged with “encourag[ing] the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans,” by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market. For the past two years, the FCC has taken up the mantle; it has made closing the digital divide between Americans with, and without, access to modern broadband networks its top priority.
As we’ve made our case for the New T-Mobile, we’ve been listening to the Federal Communications Commission and many others. We submitted a set of commitments to the FCC around the New T-Mobile to address what we’ve heard. Ultimately, the commitments are about our shared goal to put the US at the forefront of 5G innovation, driving massive economic growth, helping bridge the Digital Divide, creating more competition, and of course, giving consumers and businesses more for less.
Again, and again, I’ve heard that when people live in areas unserved and underserved by broadband networks, businesses are hard-pressed to start, grow, or stay there. Without the economic development and individual prospects enabled by competitive, advanced, and affordable broadband, people will find it harder to secure good-paying jobs, get training for future positions, or seek higher wages.
I know firsthand what it’s like living on the wrong side of the digital divide because my local community in rural Minnesota has been experiencing it for far too long. That is one of the reasons why I founded A Better Wireless, a wireless ISP that is seeking to connect rural Minnesotans who lack affordable broadband access.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai joined President Donald Trump at the White House for an announcement about action to “ensure that America wins the race to 5G.” In addition to promoting fifth generation wireless technology, Chairman Pai announced a new $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund at the FCC. That sounds like a huge step forward for expanding rural broadband -- so why was it tacked on to the 5G news? 5G is really a fiber network with antennas at the end.