— Senators are reiterating their frustrations about the digital divide this week, broaching the topic Wednesday at an Indian Affairs Committee hearing on tribal broadband gaps and poised to do so again today at a Senate Commerce hearing on rural broadband development. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on Wednesday teased forthcoming legislation intended “to clarify that the FCC’s mandate to promote universal service in advanced communications includes tribal lands.”
— Lawmakers criticized what they judged as inadequate FCC mapping of broadband availability throughout the country. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) took an FCC bureau chief to task at Wednesday’s hearing. “I’m not sure you answered any one of those questions,” Schatz said regarding complaints outlined in a Government Accountability Office report on tribal broadband issued last week.
— During today’s hearing, watch for Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) to potentially touch on concerns about the FCC’s telecom subsidies. He led the South Dakota delegation in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday calling for “immediate action” to ensure there’s enough money to help telecom carriers. “The current budget limits are hindering rural broadband deployment and harming consumers,” they wrote. “In South Dakota, the limit is estimated to cut support that carriers would otherwise have received for broadband deployment by more than $11 million over a twelve-month period.”
— An FCC spokesperson told MT that “Chairman Thune is right that the last Administration’s budget control mechanism has stymied efforts to close the digital divide in rural America” and that is why Pai “hopes his colleagues will join him later this year in establishing a sufficient and predictable budget so that those in rural communities are not left behind any longer.”
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
This is all political talk! We will have to wait for the action. Stay Tuned!