The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
On Feb 12, 2019 Sen Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced The Office of Rural Broadband Act in the Senate (S 454), which would establish an Office of Rural Broadband in the Federal Communications Commission. Sen Cramer’s Office of Rural Broadband Act is the latest effort to coordinate rural broadband planning and policy. As I recently wrote for the New York Times, this Office of Rural Broadband is best placed inside the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the US Dept of Agriculture, rather than the Federal Communications Commission, as S.454 proposes.
On March 12, 2019, I was honored to appear before the Senate Communications Subcommittee to testify on “The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America.” I provided my personal views, bringing the perspective of a former government official with 22 years of experience at the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, with the last decade focused on the FCC’s Connect America Fund. My five-minute opening statement follows:
The Benton Foundation and EducationSuperHighway met with Federal Communications Commission Wireline Competition Bureau staff and separately with legal advisors to Chairman Pai and Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks on March 7, 2019, to discuss a white paper on E-rate.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the digital divide is the “homework gap.” The term – first coined by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – describes the situation faced by the estimated 12 million students that cannot complete their school assignments because they have no broadband access at home. As she notes, roughly 7 in 10 teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection, which means that many students, especially in low-income communities, are missing out on the educational opportunities afforded to their connected peers.
In 2008, Northern Michigan University (NMU) elected to tackle the lack of adequate broadband access in its community head-on. With over 8,000 notebook computers assigned to its students, NMU launched an aggressive plan to construct the nation’s first Educational Broadband Service (EBS) WiMAX network.
The 116th Congress is underway. In the background of a partial government shutdown, lawmakers are getting their committee assignments. At Benton, we keep a close eye on two key Congressional panels because of their jurisdiction over many telecommunications issues and oversight of the Federal Communications Commission: 1) the House Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and 2) the Senate Commerce Committee. Here's a look at some key telecom policymakers -- and their priorities -- in the 116th Congress.
Rural broadband got an upgrade this week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $91 million in broadband infrastructure. As Benton readers know, broadband access in rural areas is a huge challenge: according to the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million American households who lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet access are in rural areas. The USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure for decades.
No matter who you voted for or what party you belong to, I think we can agree on one thing - access to high-speed broadband is one of the most important issues in the US today. In Congressional race after Congressional race, in Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico, just to name a few, voters said that broadband access was a top three issue, sometimes coming after health care and jobs, and other times, like in Vermont, coming in as the number one concern for voters.
As Tennessee voters head to the polls, Senate candidate Phil Bredesen (D) is taking aim at Rep Marsha Blackburn’s legacy on broadband. In a recent campaign ad, former-Gov Bredesen calls out the House Telecommunications Subcommittee chair for having “voted against $600 million in broadband initiatives.” At issue: Blackburn’s March 2018 vote against the sprawling omnibus government funding bill that contained a series of committee-negotiated tech legislation central to Blackburn’s panel.