State, Local Groups Call for Large-Scale Broadband Expansion

InternetGroups representing state governors and cities issued a press release this week urging Congress to use the planned C-band spectrum auction as a way to invest in a more robust broadband network. The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) plans to auction off a portion of the spectrum currently used by leading satellite companies, potentially paving the way for 5G expansion in the coming years.

With billions of dollars and precious broadcast spectrum real estate at stake, the National Governors Association, National League of Cities, National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments, and United States Conference of Mayors all joined forces to issue their statement. They’re also urging Congress to keep state and local governments involved in the process as funds and resources are allocated. Local leaders, they reason, have a much clearer picture of the broadband needs unique to their respective areas and should be closely involved with the federal government’s efforts.

“The need for greater federal investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure has never been more apparent. Even as more government services, business opportunities, and educational activities move online, too many of our residents have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide by insufficient or unaffordable connectivity,” the statement read.

The FCC has previously announced support and committed funds to broadband expansion efforts, especially in rural areas. The $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, for example, is aimed at addressing unserved areas and underserved markets with existing, but limited broadband access. Meanwhile, the commission recently approved $240 million to expand broadband access in parts of nine states.

The joint statement went on to say, “This auction presents a unique opportunity to invest in closing the digital divide without creating a new cost burden for the federal government, and while still accommodating the needs of the current users of the C-band.”

Key questions remain regarding the proposed C-band auction, including potential incentives for satellite companies to vacate that portion of the spectrum. Still, today’s joint statement makes it clear that several key state and local government coalitions feel broadband expansion should remain a top priority.

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