We Need a Full-Strength FCC to Close the Digital Divide
Feb 1st, 2022
By Chet Kanojia, Founder and CEO of Starry Internet
2022 is set to be a monumental year for broadband deployment, with millions of dollars dedicated to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Congress to close the digital divide and connect millions of Americans. Internet providers of all makeups and sizes, including Starry, are working diligently to provide high-speed internet access in innovative ways that expands connectivity to all Americans. But there are still many hurdles to overcome if we are serious about making the digital divide a remnant of the past.
With Congress dedicating $65 billion to broadband infrastructure, a welcome bipartisan moment has opened the door to enable new innovations and increased competition within the internet provider market, ultimately to the benefit of millions of Americans who are still awaiting adequate access to high-speed internet. The passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a full-throated acknowledgment, by both sides of the aisle, of the internet’s importance in economic opportunity, job creation, education, and more.
However, successfully deploying this unprecedented investment in broadband infrastructure requires a full-strength FCC, something that hangs in the balance today. With a vote scheduled tomorrow to confirm a fifth commissioner to the FCC, I strongly urge our Senators to embrace this historic opportunity to permanently erase the term “digital divide” from our lexicon and confirm Gigi Sohn as the FCC’s fifth commissioner, so that the important work, necessary to deploy billions of dollars for broadband, can begin.
Americans cannot reap the immense benefits of this broadband investment without first finishing the broadband mapping effort, already begun by the FCC. We also cannot fully connect unconnected Americans in urban and rural areas without first implementing policies that encourage and enable market competition so that Americans have more affordable choices when it comes to high-speed internet access, wherever they may live. That includes the important ongoing work of ensuring competitive broadband access in multi-tenant communities, expanded spectrum access, and ensuring the successful implementation of the Affordable Connectivity Program. We need a full-strength, five-person FCC in order to achieve this.
Ms. Sohn, with her considerable experience in telecommunications policy, combined with her pragmatic consumer-focused, market competition-first approach, will be a necessary and important voice to have on the Commission. Her past record shows that she will work in the consumer’s interest to ensure competition and innovation. She has long supported pro-competition policies, such as lowering barriers to broadband deployment and supporting expanded spectrum access for fixed and mobile uses. She is willing to take the time and effort to engage thoughtfully on difficult and complicated issues with stakeholders who disagree. Sohn’s deep understanding of complex telecommunications policies (and the history), combined with her understanding of how these policies impact consumers and markets, make her well-suited to be our fifth FCC Commissioner.
Connecting all Americans to affordable, high quality internet access is not a partisan issue, rather it is a public interest, and it is in the public interest to have a full strength FCC as soon as possible. I strongly urge the Senate to confirm Ms. Sohn to the FCC so we can make good on this once-in-a-generation broadband investment and close the digital divide once and for all.
Chet Kanojia is the founder and CEO of Starry, a next generation fixed wireless broadband provider.