Congress and the Biden administration are currently deliberating on an historic and comprehensive infrastructure plan that could invest an unprecedented $100 billion in broadband deployment. WIA and its members share the goal of bridging the digital divide and commend Congress and the White House for their focus on bringing connectivity to all communities.
WIA embraces key principles it is using in its advocacy on behalf of the wireless infrastructure industry. As Congress drafts an infrastructure bill, it should ensure that funds can be used for operational expenses, such as leases, as well as capital expenses; infrastructure can be deployed expeditiously; and recipients are held accountable for outcomes. It should be truly technology neutral with the end in mind: building infrastructure with the most cost-efficient means to get the most bandwidth to the most consumers.
Most fundamentally, it needs to include mobile 5G broadband. Otherwise, Congress could inadvertently grow a rural mobility digital divide in which many rural residents would be limited to accessing the internet through a wired connection in the home or farmhouse. All broadband technologies, including wireless, are needed to ensure that rural communities have robust connectivity. Defining broadband as a connection offering symmetric 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload bandwidth (100/100) is not technology neutral as it excludes 5G mobile service from being delivered to rural consumers. With current technology, only fiber to the premise supports 100 Mbps uploads speeds, which few consumers ever use or need given current applications. But it does preclude mobility, which nearly every rural consumer wants and needs, given the long distances they must traverse.
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