A coalition of organizations representing state and local governments released the following statement in response to hearings on the FY 2021 Budget Request for Federal Communication Commission before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on March 10 and before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on March 11:
On behalf of the nation’s states, cities and counties we write to express our support as Congress considers efforts to expand federal investment in our nation’s broadband infrastructure. We hope that the federal government takes advantage of the opportunity to leverage the upcoming auction of the C-band spectrum for a large-scale expansion and upgrade of broadband across communities.
The need for greater federal investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure has never been more apparent. Even as more government services, business opportunities, and educational activities move online, too many of our residents have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide by insufficient or unaffordable connectivity. Connectivity is essential to unleashing economic potential, promoting job growth, and ensuring small business participation in the digital economy. We need ubiquitous, affordable broadband to truly unlock the potential of new technologies for healthcare advancement and smart infrastructure.
More work is needed to connect all of our communities. This auction presents a unique opportunity to invest in closing the digital divide without creating a new cost burden for the federal government, and while still accommodating the needs of the current users of the C-band. However, to ensure that we truly expand access and build upon previous federal, state and local work, these funds must be allocated wisely.
If Congress acts, state and local governments must be partners in determining the allocation of funds. State and local leaders have a much more granular understanding than federal agencies about where broadband infrastructure is robust and where it is lacking and where subscriptions are unaffordable. We appreciate the acknowledgement that areas currently designated as underserved, not just unserved, need further investment as well. We hope that any further investment in broadband infrastructure will also address the need for capacity-building for broadband planning.
We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to advance this important national priority.