Broadband Hearings – Separate Funding for BB and 5G Deployment

– The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), will mull whether a new pot of money dedicated to broadband is necessary, as lawmakers like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) argue. “I think the decision of the Congress would be whether to do something separate and apart from [the FCC’s universal service fund subsidies] or whether simply to put more money into a program that people are familiar with and comfortable with,” Wicker told John. WTA, a trade group representing small telecom companies, said in a statement Monday that Congress should set aside a portion of rural infrastructure funds expressly for broadband.

– And don’t forget: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the subcommittee’s ranking member, is still crafting legislation with Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) aimed at speeding deployment of the infrastructure needed for 5G wireless networks. “We’re getting closer,” Schatz told John, calling hangups “mostly technical” and owing to the task’s complexity. The 5G transition will call for large numbers of “small cells,” whose size the wireless industry often compares to that of pizza boxes. “It’s not that easy to have a federal statute that interacts constructively with state and county zoning,” Schatz added. If a regulated utility holds the property rights for infrastructure like utility poles “and then you get to throw these pizza boxes on, there are some competitive issues that have to be sorted out,” he said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

The outcome of these hearing is important to rural broadband deployment. Without some dedicated funding, the infrastructure funding distribution will be controlled by entrenched organizations more powerful than rural broadband advocates. For rural broadband,  5G is not the best technology as it relies on small cells distributed over large areas. The rural low user density will not support the build-out costs.

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