Top Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee agreed with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that the FCC's latest (Sec. 706) broadband deployment report shows "significant progress" in closing the digital divide.
The chairman released a draft of the report for the commissioners' perusal this week. It concludes that advanced telecommunications services—defined as broadband—are being deployed on a "reasonable and timely basis."
The report is mandated by Congress and if the FCC does not conclude deployment is reasonable and timely it can regulate to make it so.
Reports under recent Democratic chairs reached the opposite conclusion based on the statutory language, which includes "all Americans," concluding deployment could not fit that definition until high-speed broadband's reach—wireless is not yet a substitute—was 100%.
But that was not the conclusion of Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, who saw Pai's deregulatory moves behind that progress, though Walden also put in a plug for Republican net neutrality bills.
But they also signaled more needs to be done.
“This report shows that the FCC’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens are helping more Americans gain access to broadband and bringing us closer to finally closing the digital divide,” Walden said. “But despite these breakthroughs, there is still more work to be done — and that’s why Republicans want to find a bipartisan solution for net neutrality. We need open internet certainty without the excessive and unrelated burdens of Title II.”
“Closing the ‘digital divide’ is one of my top priorities as Republican Leader on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and this report shows that efforts to reduce regulatory burdens and support investment are helping more Americans gain access to high-speed broadband,” said Latta. “Representing a number of rural areas in Congress, I know the difference that this will make in family homes and for businesses on Main Street in these communities. At the same time, there’s still more work to be done at the FCC and in Congress to make access to high-speed internet a reality for all Americans.”