Trade Group Leader Urges Efficient Distribution Of Funding To Unserved Areas
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted Hearn
PITTSBURGH, February 13, 2019 – In Capitol Hill testimony today, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka explained that broadband deployment in the US has been an enormous success, with ACA members alone investing billions of dollars in broadband infrastructure in some of the most rural and financially challenging areas of the country.
At the same time, he noted that private network owners could do more if government eliminated barriers that either impede or actually deter network investment. He also explained these measures are critical to closing the digital divide, as are the high-cost support programs of the Federal Communications Commission and Rural Utilities Service. In the end, Mr. Polka said that all Americans should have access high-performance broadband connectivity, and we should use the lessons we have learned to get us there sooner and more effectively and efficiently.
“Even though the news is good, public and private sector barriers exist that hinder more deployments. This unnecessary friction increases the costs and slows the speed of broadband deployments. Congress and the FCC have already taken helpful steps to address these problems, but more can and should be done,” Polka said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on the topic “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy.”
Polka’s testimony comes as Capitol Hill lawmakers consider legislative efforts designed to deal with the challenges of providing all Americans with access to high-performance Internet connectivity, viewed as the critical input to spurring economic development, innovation, research, workforce development and improved quality of life.
Illustrating the commitment of ACA’s hundreds of members, Polka said these small and midsized providers have invested more than $12 billion to upgrade and expand their networks in both rural areas and as overbuilders bringing competition in urban areas over the past decade, and they plan to continue to spend billions each year to meet the ever growing demands of their subscribers for real-time, high-speed access to the Internet and other IP services.
Today, more than 100 million homes have access to 100-plus Mbps broadband service, and fewer than 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, respect 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 from its spending by taking measures that lower those costs, such as ensuring that broadband providers have access to public and private rights-of-way at reasonable costs, and increasing the shared use of conduit and ducts by private entities.
· Third, account for additional deployments in unserved areas resulting from the removal of barriers, the new tax law, and existing federal and state 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 more than 700 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services to nearly 8 million customers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s 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://www.americancable.org/