CRAMER: Bipartisan Group of House Members Call on FCC to Pave Way for Rural Broadband Access
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan coalition of Congressional members led by Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) have sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Reilly urging them to make the use of rural broadband through 'TV White Spaces’ a priority as they begin the process of repacking broadcast stations after the recent broadcast spectrum auction.
The letter, drafted by Cramer and co-led by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Suzan DelBene (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Mark Walker (R-N.C.), urges the FCC to preserve three white space channels in every local market which would allow broadband internet connections in hard to reach rural communities across America.
TV White Spaces have been tested by the FCC and have shown to be a viable and cost-effective way to make access to broadband available in extremely remote areas where there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection readily available due to buildings, hilly or mountainous terrain, or general lack of population. By investing in white space technology, families living in rural areas can have equal access to different types of opportunities – from educational possibilities to job creation and health care.
The letter is part of a larger push for broadband connectivity in rural communities across the country. As stated in the letter, according to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, approximately thirty-four million Americans do not have broadband internet access, with about twenty-four million folks in rural communities lacking the network infrastructure necessary for a reliable and affordable broadband connection.
Separating the Congressional interest in TV White Spaces from other policy initiatives is the wide-ranging support from leadership across all political factions of the House of Representatives. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers chairs the House Republican Conference. Rep. Peter Welch is Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus. Rep. Mark Meadows is Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Suzan DelBene is Vice-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, Rep. Darrell Issa is a senior member and former Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Anna Eshoo is the former Ranking Democratic Member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which has direct jurisdiction over the FCC. Rep. Mark Walker is Chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Rep. Doug Collins is Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference. And, Rep. Steve Stivers is Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“As a former utility regulator, I understand the costs of deploying high-speed broadband to Rural America,” said Cramer. "It’s a process that requires unbelievable amounts of capital and takes years to recoup the costs for rural broadband providers. If TV White Spaces technology can be the ultimate disrupter to reduce these massive costs, eliminate the digital divide, and revolutionize the broadband industry, then the FCC should give it the attention it deserves. That’s precisely why this letter is supported by Members of Congress from across the political spectrum. This issue transcends politics because it’s doing the right thing for the American people, and we hope it’s taken seriously."
In the letter sent to the FCC, the coalition of rural-focused members wrote, “One in ten Americans is left behind without access to technological opportunities readily available in other parts of the country. Respectfully, we believe it’s time for the FCC to take concrete steps to make affordable broadband internet, and the opportunities that come with it, available to all Americans.”
“We believe that the television white spaces (TVWS) have strong potential to revolutionize broadband internet accessibility in rural areas. TVWS allows a broadband internet connection to cover 9 miles, while navigating the physical terrain that at times can make wireless broadband connectivity difficult. Because of this range, these internet connections are extremely cost-effective requiring minimal infrastructure investments, and are far more dependable than the limited connections that many rural areas currently have.”
“Robust low-cost broadband connections literally connect rural communities to the rest of the world. They allow students to connect to their school networks from home, or use online resources for homework and other projects. Farmers could use cloud computing and analytics software to better grow and monitor their crops, reduce waste, save water, optimize fertilization and maximize yields. Doctors in rural health clinics would be able to access life-saving information through broadband connected networks with urban medical centers. Law-enforcement would be able to quickly dispatch officers and relay arrest-warrant information during emergencies. Families could not only share pictures and stay in touch with each other, but also access a wealth of economic opportunities to which they would otherwise not have access.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.