Noting the increased need for Internet connectivity during the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is asking for a greater government emphasis on broadband construction.
In an editorial on the organization’s website, Jordan Crenshaw, executive director of the Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center, has recommended “long-term funding and permitting relief” to spur more broadband development nationally.
Noting that even though broadband carriers have kept up with the connectivity demand throughout the COVID-19 spread, Crenshaw said that what has been called the Digital Divide, referring to a continuing lack of broadband availability in the nation’s rural areas, still exists.
That divide is explored in a report issued this spring by the Federal Communications Commission noting that 22.3 percent of residents in rural parts of the nation continue to lack access to high-speed Internet.
The FCC document, 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, also notes that an even larger 27.3 percent of those living on Tribal lands are still without high-speed connectivity.
Additional studies have suggested that the high cost of building broadband infrastructure in some rural areas has repeatedly been a downer to investors; while a lack of mapping to determine exactly the areas of the country lacking broadband has proved another obstacle.
In response, the Chamber has now asked Congress to secure funding for broadband development in rural areas.
Writes Crenshaw: “Federal funding should also support collocation by enabling funds to be used for leasing tower space in addition to capital expenditures.”
Addressing the challenge from a regulatory perspective, legislature is currently pending in Congress that calls on local governments to reduce both fees and the time frames for approving broadband development projects.
Called the Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act, the measure is currently being reviewed in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
By Garry Boulard
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