Bloomberg BNA: Congress Needs to Put the Net Neutrality Debate to Rest to Help Close the Digital Divide

By: Hon. Rick Boucher

A recent Congressional hearing underscored how many Senators remain deeply, even angrily, concerned about the low availability of high-speed internet access in rural America. From the tenor of the hearing, one would rightly conclude that the need for greater broadband deployment is the single most pressing internet policy issue of our time.

During the hearing, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai pointedly whether the FCC would “commit to providing a solution for rural broadband” by the end of the year (answer: yes). FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly emphasized that 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband today. And Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) said his concern is addressing the areas that have “no G,” even as many Americans are beginning the important transition from 4G to 5G broadband service.

Unfortunately, the continuing saga of the net neutrality debate, which has now raged for more than a decade, has taken the oxygen out of the room and diverted attention from the very practical and pressing concern over lack of broadband for so many in the United States. Because of the almost exclusive preoccupation with net neutrality, the bandwidth has simply not existed for sufficient policy focus on the availability of broadband.