• Commentary: Broadband for Everyone – The FCC will Decide

    Recently President Trump gave a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa after touring the Agriculture Facilities at Kirkwood Community College. He focused on the need to bring rural America into the modern age by providing access to broadband internet service. Trump indicated that expanding broadband access will be part of his infrastructure plan coming forthwith.

    Trump stated, “I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal — $1 trillion proposal, you’ll be seeing it very shortly — to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America. We will rebuild rural America.”

    That is good news to nearly 34 million Americans who live in communities without access to broadband with about 24 million of those being rural. Access to broadband will provide unlimited opportunities, such as enable rural doctors to improve treatment, educational opportunities for students, and allow for expanding entrepreneurship and create new jobs that are not centrally focused on metropolitan areas. Broadband quite literally can be a life blood to some of these otherwise dying areas.

    New developments in technology are making it possible to reach these underserved areas by transmitting broadband wirelessly over the unused low band (700 MHz and below) spectrum, the so-called “TV white spaces”. But this opportunity depends on a decision this summer when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide the future of these channels.

    Without a positive decision, this opportunity will be lost for the foreseeable future. There is no comparable spectrum on the horizon to bring robust, affordable broadband to underserved communities.

    The FCC could accomplish this lofty goal by simply preserving three useable 6 MHz channels in every market around the country. This would allow the private sector to use the system and deploy new technology on the so-called white space channels to provide broadband to these hard to reach Americans. It’s rare that the FCC has a chance like this to actually make so many lives better and provide a spark to the economy all in one move.

    If the FCC rules favorably, investment into crumbling communities would transform rural and some urban communities giving them access to the same opportunities that technology is providing the rest of the world.

    If the FCC refuses to endorse the full three white space channels in every market, the investment will disappear and the rural areas will suffer a continued decline. There literally is no other cost-effective way to provide broadband to the hard to serve areas. The white space spectrum plan isn’t nearly as expensive as old ways of doing things. Running fiber or cable to the many rural areas is cost prohibitive compared to the number of people served.

    For years expanding broadband access into rural communities has been a major goal—and a costly endeavor. Yet tens of millions of Americans remain cut off from the benefits of high speed Internet. Usable low band spectrum white spaces can be used to connect these communities without all the time and cost of installing infrastructure. The technology and value is clear. FCC has already opened up these channels for use in connecting these communities, but the order hasn’t been implemented. The FCC should proceed by preserving enough spectrum—just three channels—in every market across the country for the expansion of broadband. It only requires three of the many unused channels, but it requires ALL THREE.

    President Trump could actually deliver on his promise to provide broadband opportunities to rural America by utilizing existing technology found in the white spaces. Broadband can be delivered everywhere at an affordable price. It’s time for the FCC to allow private industry to bring the last part of America into the modern age.


    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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