PITTSBURGH, January 29, 2018 – Over the past decade, the United States has made great strides to bring fast and affordable broadband to all Americans, and we should build on these efforts to close the remaining digital divide. Let’s continue to rely first on private investment and then remove barriers that frustrate even more broadband deployments.
That’s the core message ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka is planning to deliver tomorrow before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in a legislative hearing called, “Closing the Digital Divide: Broadband Infrastructure Solutions.” In recent days, House members on the panel have introduced resolutions and numerous bills designed to ensure greater broadband and to allow rural America to enjoy the economic gains associated with robust connections to the global economy.
Polka is scheduled to testify on a panel of witnesses at 10 a.m., Jan. 30, in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Polka’s invitation from the Subcommittee is available here, and the full text of his prepared remarks can be found here on ACA’s website.
In his testimony, Polka underscores that closing the digital divide is within reach because of the past expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars of private capital by broadband providers and because of the FCC’s universal service reforms.
Today, more than 100 million homes have access to 100-plus Mbps broadband service, and only 5.3 million remain with speeds of less than 10 Mbps. In just a few years, the number of unserved will be reduced even further because of deployments and support programs already underway.
“We should recognize and build upon these successes. ACA believes that we can offer Americans even higher speed broadband and close the remaining digital divide by following four principles,” Polka said.
ACA’s top recommendations are:
- First, encourage private investment: Fixed and mobile broadband providers are spending more than $75 billion annually to upgrade and expand broadband networks. Government should not undermine these investments, such as by permitting government funds to be used to overbuild providers.
- Second, remove barriers to deployment: Building high-performance broadband networks is costly, and government will get the most bang, without spending a buck, by taking measures that lower those costs, including the removal of impediments for utility pole attachers to overlash.
- Third, account for additional deployments in unserved areas resulting from the removal of barriers, the new tax law, and existing federal support programs before determining where to spend new funds and how much is needed: ACA calculates that by removing barriers, providers’ costs to deploy will be reduced, such that 1.2 million homes would become served with fiber infrastructure through private investment alone; the new tax law will likewise result in more than 400k unserved homes being served; and the Connect America programs will reduce homes receiving less than 10 Mbps speeds by 2 million by 2020.
- Fourth, provide broadband subsidies efficiently: Through its Connect America programs, the FCC has shown how to award government support more efficiently and effectively. Where we need to provide additional support, we should build upon the FCC’s work by providing subsidies for broadband only in unserved, high-cost areas; limiting the amount of federal support to account for subsidies provided by states, unless any additional broadband performance is required; and using reverse auctions to distribute support.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/