Washington, DC – Congressman Doyle (D-PA-14) made the following opening statement this morning at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications Technology’s hearing on Broadband infrastructure.
Access to affordable broadband remains one of the great challenges faced by people in this country. Far too many people in this country either have no access, limited access, or overpriced access.
Broadband is an essential tool for participation in modern life. We use it to find employment, educate our children, get access to healthcare, and connect with our communities.
But far too many American’s don’t have the type of connectivity they want or need, and certainly in many parts of the country the free market has failed to close these gaps. As many of the witnesses point out in their written testimony, carriers that provide connectivity under the Universal Service program will not be able to raise enough capital to build out or sustain rural broadband networks on their own.
As major cities are looking at the challenges and opportunities of gigabit or multi-gigabit 5-G wireless deployments in the next few years, rural carriers will be working over the next 10 years to deploy basic LTE services. I think moving forward with this programs is critical, but the challenge we face as a nation is that servicing rural America will require greater sustained investment, if we hope to prevent those communities from being left behind. Tax credits and toll booths can’t sustain infrastructure in places that don’t have economically viable markets.
The draft bills offered by the majority today are fine bills that address a number of challenges to deploying broadband. But they don’t get at the real problem, which is that there isn’t a viable business case for investing in these regions. I was looking through some of the data submitted by Cost Quest Associates from the second panel. Some members here have districts with as few as 11% of the households served by terrestrial broadband.
Recent studies have also shown redlining in cities like Cleveland which have resulted in low income communities being left behind while affluent parts of the city receive upgraded service.
Access isn’t our only challenge; the FCC found that eighty two percent of the country has only one provider to choose from for high speed broadband. With numbers like that, if we were talking about health care Republican’s would be fighting to repeal and replace internet service in this country.
The Consumer Federation of America found that this lack of competition results in Americans currently overpaying roughly $60 billion a year for broadband; that adds up to $250 billion over the past five years. According to Cost Quest Associates, that overage alone would pay for the build-out of a ubiquitous high speed network that could support high consumer use, autonomous vehicles, and future demand.
We cannot ignore the impact that a lack of competition has on the cost to consumers or the pace of deployment.