October 2, 2014 – On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed the importance of local choice and competition regarding broadband access during remarks at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Annual Conference in Minnesota.
Wheeler did not make specific comments about recent petitions from two communities–Wilson, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee– who are soliciting the FCC to preempt their states' laws that prohibit expansion of their respective community-owned broadband networks. However, Wheeler did express the importance of prioritizing the expansion of wired and wireless infrastructure.
In his prepared remarks, Wheeler said, "If the infrastructure necessary to build out both wired and wireless broadband networks doesn’t receive the prioritization that it warrants as a major national undertaking, then all the efforts to achieve faster, cheaper, better broadband service that will enhance our nation’s competitiveness, create quality jobs for our fellow citizens, and introduce services that will redefine both our commerce and our culture will be for naught.”
Wheeler also expressed that greater broadband access directly correlates to America’s continued economic leadership. He called on local officials to support their communities and the American society at large.
The Chairman also highlighted his agency’s recent proposal to make it easier to deploy wireless equipment, especially so-called small-cell systems. This technology enhances increases network speeds in high-congestion areas. Carriers including Sprint and AT&T have been working on such technologies as a way to better manage their networks.
Wheeler’s closing remarks emphasized the need for cooperation to facilitate public safety communication over all-internet protocol networks. The next generation of emergency 911 systems relies on multi-state or national infrastructures and relationships. The need for reliability and resiliency for these networks is vital in light of recent outages in April and August. He noted that next year’s incentive spectrum auction is a key mechanism for funding FirstNet, the First Responder Network Authority that will deploy the next generation 911 systems. The federal government, every state and territory, local governments and approximately 5.4 million first responders will be participating in FirstNet, which was created when the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act was signed into law on February 22, 2012.