Promises Agency Will Wisely Target $2 Billion In Broadband Subsidies
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2018 – Here at today’s American Cable Association policy Summit, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai told ACA members that the FCC’s top policy priority is closing the digital divide and thanked ACA members for using their own capital to serve more than three-quarters of a million homes that the FCC has classified as being in high-cost areas.
Chairman Pai also encouraged ACA members to compete for monies from the Connect American Fund, which promises to bring broadband to many unserved areas.
“Under this program, we’ll distribute nearly $2 billion over the next decade to support fixed broadband deployment in rural America,” Pai said, adding that the program is technology-neutral, emphasizes efficiency, and will be targeted wisely.
“That means no duplicating existing efforts with Connect America Fund dollars,” Pai explained.
Pai’s comments came before hundreds of ACA members who gathered in Washington, D.C., for ACA’s 25 annual Summit.
Pai praised ACA members for deploying broadband in the some of the most challenging areas to serve.
“Indeed, without any subsidies, you’ve already built out networks that reach 840,000 homes in areas that the FCC has identified as the most expensive to serve,” Pai said.
In his prepared remarks, Pai singled a few ACA members, including Liberty Cablevision, whose Puerto Rico cable system was wiped out by Hurricane Maria last September. On a recent visit there, Pai said he “got a firsthand look at how hard the work is” at restoring service.
“And it’s time-consuming-I saw the [Liberty] CEO and work crews alike putting in extra hours in the dirt to get this done. They understand that until service is restored, Puerto Rican communities will continue to suffer. So thanks to the Liberty team for their incredible efforts,” Pai said.
Pai also recognized ACA member Hotwire Networks and “its commitment to having an all-fiber network nearly two decades ago.”
He noted that “Hotwire even held the top spot recently on the Netflix ISP Speed Index.”
Pai also mentioned Wave Broadband in Kirkland, Wash., for unveiling “a new cybersecurity service to help potential clients mitigate DDoS attacks, which disrupt service with an overwhelming flood of traffic.”
The Chairman also discussed how the FCC’s recent Restoring Internet Freedom decision, where the FCC would return to using light-touch regulation, paved the way private for investment to build wired and wireless networks.
Pai explained that with the imposition of Title II, “Money that could have expanded networks was now being siphoned off to pay lawyers and consultants to make sense of the new rules. Resources were spent developing plans to minimize the risk of enforcement actions. Some of you even started setting money aside for litigation reserves.”
Pai called Title II’s regulatory onslaught “galling” saying that “Silicon Valley tech giants with market caps in the hundreds of billions of dollars demanded that the FCC regulate small companies like yours more heavily than they were!”
These behemoths claimed that small broadband providers like Spencer Municipal Utilities and Laurens Municipal Utilities were “anticompetitive monopolists who posed a greater threat to a free and open Internet than companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter,” Pai said adding that back in 2015 he realized this was “absurd.
In addition to the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, Pai noted there are other deterrents to network investment. “One of the most important things the FCC can do to help small cable companies deploy broadband is remove regulatory barriers to buildout,” he said.
He praised ACA for quantifying how much red tape impacts the costs of building and operating networks. “According to your research, for example, the fees and delays associated with accessing utility poles account for 11% of the costs of building and operating a network,” adding that this figure is higher than the estimated share for the actual fiber and cable installation.
The ACA Summit is a truly special event that allows small and midsize cable, phone and broadband companies that connect hometown America to engage with leading lawmakers and regulators as well as media representatives that report on communications policy in Washington, D.C. Created in the early 1990s, the ACA Summit gives independent operators a vehicle for framing the diverse and complex issues in their own words during dozens of meetings on Capitol Hill and with regulators at the Federal Communications Commission.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable, phone and broadband companies who provide broadband services for nearly 8 million subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/