Experts Urge Congress to Diversify Broadband Policy Beyond Wired Infrastructure

Congress should invest in wireless and wired broadband to provide resilient, affordable broadband.

Experts Urge Congress to Diversify Broadband Policy Beyond Wired Infrastructure
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota

June 22, 2021 – Experts warned Congress on Tuesday not to put all its eggs in a “single wireline basket” when it comes to crafting policy on broadband infrastructure.

During a subcommittee meeting on communications, media, and broadband on Tuesday, Jonathan Adelstein, CEO of the Wireless Industry Association, warned the committee against putting all the funding into one kind of broadband infrastructure, specifically in wired broadband.

Discussions over the past several months have been focused increasingly on the importance and prominence of fiber, which many say is the lifeblood of high-quality networks. In March, Republican South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham reintroduced the State Fix Act, which would pledge $20 billion for broadband infrastructure using fiber.

Jeff Johnson, chief of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, added that, “When market conditions exist that would allow for the presence of multiple providers [and technologies], then I think adding redundancy to any network adds survivability to the network.”

Johnson spoke about his experience fighting fires and how important networks are to that effort. In 2018, Ars Technica reported that Verizon throttled a California fire department’s unlimited data during a wildfire. The telecom company later said it was a mistake.

All witnesses on Tuesday stressed the importance of resilience in broadband, which ensures networks are always in good health regardless of challenges. Many senators and witnesses alike pointed to the many natural disasters that have caused increased first responder response times and left entire communities without broadband.

Priority should be broadband to underserved communities

Sen. Ben Luján, D-New Mexico, pushed back on the focus of the discussion, suggesting that his main concern is getting broadband to underserved communities. He wanted to put the debate surrounding wired or wireless broadband aside.

This week Congress heard that it should similarly focus on getting some level of connectivity to underserved communities instead of being enamored with higher speeds.

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