April 3, 2024

Capitol Connection with Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter

As part of ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer’s Capitol Connection series, Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), shared how he’s leading on solutions to lift the regulatory burden and empower broadband providers.

Congressman Carter proudly represents Georgia’s First Congressional District and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee. As a pharmacist who has served rural communities, he has a great story to tell on the importance of a more connected America to improve people’s lives, especially through telemedicine. Don’t miss this special feature in this issue and be sure to learn more about Congressman Carter on BuddyCarter.House.Gov.

Q: Can you share with ICN readers why you ran for Congress? Tell us about Georgia’s First Congressional District.

Out of 435 districts, I have the honor and privilege of representing the best one, the First Congressional District of Georgia, in the United States Congress. My district includes all 100 miles of the Peach State’s pristine coastline, the Okefenokee Swamp, the historic City of Savannah, two of the busiest ports in the nation, robust manufacturing and agricultural industries, and so much more. This is my home. It’s where I’ve lived my entire life and plan to live the rest of my life. I didn’t have the honor of serving in the United States military; my opportunity to serve came in the form of public office, serving those who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedoms. We are blessed with a rich military community in GA-01, from Ft. Stewart to Kings Bay Naval Base, and I cannot overstate the appreciation our community has for their sacrifice and service. 

I ran for public office, serving as Mayor of Pooler, Georgia State Representative, and Georgia State Senator before making my way to the House of Representatives, because I believe that I’ve lived the American dream. My grandfather was a sharecropper; he didn’t own the land; he worked the land. My father worked at the local paper mill. He worked hard to give my family a better life. I was fortunate enough to graduate from the University of Georgia and open my own successful chain of pharmacies, which I ran in the First Congressional District for more than 30 years. In fact, I maintain my pharmacy license to this day. I want my children, grandchildren, and all Americans to have the same opportunities to succeed that I did, and that’s why I ran for Congress. America is the freest, most prosperous nation to exist, where people from all walks of life can succeed, and we need to keep it that way. 

Q. What are your communications and technology priorities on the Energy and Commerce Committee?

As the former Vice-Chair of the Communications & Tech Subcommittee, I became very active in this space despite being a pharmacist by trade. The issues we focus on can be very technical, but I have luckily become very familiar with these important topics, including broadband permitting reform. In every industry ranging from energy to telecommunications, the permitting process gets in the way of investment and deployment and ends up hurting consumers the most. 

That’s why I introduced the American Broadband Deployment Act which streamlines these processes and ensures providers are not overburdened by costs and delays. There are over 7 million American homes and businesses that lack access to high-speed broadband, and these lengthy permitting processes are one of the culprits. Other initiatives to close the digital divide include taking down heavy-handed FCC rules like Title II and Digital Discrimination which I’m sure we’ll discuss. 

Rep. Carter Speaks on Amendments to the American Broadband Deployment Act
Rep. Carter Speaks on Amendments to the American Broadband Deployment Act (Photo credit: Screenshot from Congressman Buddy Carter’s YouTube channel)

Our Subcommittee also has jurisdiction over social media platforms which need increased accountability and transparency. This is very important to me. I have made it a priority to increase the safety of children online whether that is through initiatives such as my bill “Sammy’s Law” or pulling back the curtain on apps with ties to our adversary, China, which conduct psychological warfare on our youth. Speaking of protection from China – we have also spent a great deal of time and effort on securing our telecommunications equipment and infrastructure from bad actors. I have hosted a cybersecurity roundtable in my district to discuss the threat landscape as well as best practices for businesses of all sizes. I look forward to hosting more! 

Q: As a pharmacist, what unique perspective do you bring on the importance of connecting more communities to high-speed internet?

Rep. Buddy Carter
Rep. Buddy Carter

Because of my background in pharmacy, I know just how important telehealth access is for both patients and providers. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had conversations in the Energy and Commerce Committee about the importance of telehealth and the idea that one day appointments would be online; but the pandemic forced decades of innovation to happen practically overnight. Now, nearly all hospitals and doctors’ offices offer some form of telehealth services. 

All patients benefit from increased access to their health care providers, but this is an especially valuable service for seniors and people in rural areas, who may not have reliable transportation or live hundreds of miles away from the nearest hospital or pharmacy. By expanding broadband access to these communities, we are helping more Americans receive the care they need in a timely and affordable manner. 

Q: What impact will deploying more broadband infrastructure have on communities across America, including Georgia’s First Congressional District?

There are significant benefits to all communities when we increase broadband access and connectivity. Fixed broadband adoption accounted for nearly 11 percent of the accumulated growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) between 2010 and 2020. A Journal of Econometrics study found that “for every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration in a state, employment is projected to increase 0.2 to 0.3% per year.” Reliable internet access allows people and services to reach new populations and areas, allowing small businesses to expand their operations, agricultural products to be shipped overseas, and job opportunities to increase.

Rep. Buddy Carter joins FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr on a fiber build to bring high-speed Internet to rural Bulloch County, Georgia.
Rep. Buddy Carter joins FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr on a fiber build to bring high-speed Internet to rural Bulloch County, Georgia. (Photo credit: @BrendanCarrFCC)

There are also significant educational benefits. Grade point averages for key classes, such as English, social sciences, mathematics, and science, are .19 points higher for students with home broadband access than for students with no home access or only mobile wireless access. This directly impacts a child’s future financial success; for example, students impacted by COVID-19 learning losses, which we know were correlated with broadband access, will see an estimated $70,000 decline in their lifetime earning potentials.

You’d be hard pressed to find a community or industry that wouldn’t benefit from increased broadband access, which is why closing the digital divide is a congressional priority. 

Rep. Buddy Carter meets with a telecom crew in Guyton, Georgia, where the final leg of a fiber broadband project is completed.
Rep. Buddy Carter meets with a telecom crew in Guyton, Georgia, where the final leg of a fiber broadband project is completed. (Photo credit: @BrendanCarrFCC)

Q: You are leading a resolution of disapproval to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Digital Discrimination rules. Why is your resolution important and how will it protect small and rural broadband providers?

Like I mentioned earlier, closing the digital divide is a top priority of mine and of the Energy & Commerce Committee as a whole. Unfortunately, the FCC’s Digital Discrimination rules will have the opposite effect by creating uncertainty and discouraging providers from investing in future deployments. That’s why I’m leading a Congressional Review Act with fellow Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde that would block the FCC’s overreach while protecting free market capitalism. The rule is dangerously broad and unconstitutional – it gives the FCC the authority to implement regulations restricting every aspect of the telecommunications industry, including how they operate, market, profit, and so on. It also expands the FCC’s authority to industries outside of telecommunications to include any industry that could inhibit its ability to implement these expansive regulations. As one can expect, there have already been a number of lawsuits filed against the FCC challenging these heavy-handed rules, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes.

Q: How much support has this resolution garnered?

We have broad support for this resolution. As of March 19th, we have over 70 cosponsors in the House, and the Senate companion has more than 18. We also have great industry partners who are supportive, with endorsements from Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), Citizens for Renewing America, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Choice Center, Digital First Project, Heritage Action for America, R Street Institute, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and US Telecom.

ACA Connects Members Shentel's EVP & COO Ed McKay (left) and MCTV's President Katherine Gessner (right), meet with Rep. Buddy Carter on Capitol Hill at Summit 2024.
ACA Connects Members Shentel’s EVP & COO Ed McKay (left) and MCTV’s President Katherine Gessner (right), meet with Rep. Buddy Carter on Capitol Hill at Summit 2024.

Q: ACA Connects, which represents small and independent providers with a proven track record of serving their communities, supports your efforts to stop the FCC’s attempt to regulate the internet. How can our Members stay engaged on this resolution and issue and help ensure they can continue to invest and innovate to close the digital divide? 

We need input from people living and working in the communities our work impacts, so that we know how best to serve the American people. Staying engaged with your representatives is the best way to impact change on the national level. 

I like to remind folks that Congress is a citizen legislature. When I have a question about constitutional law, I go to our Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. When people have questions about pharmacy, they come to me. We have truckers, pilots, way too many lawyers, veterans, and people from a variety of career backgrounds. This is what allows us to do the work that we do. One of us is not as smart as all of us, and the work you do to advocate on behalf of the people, places, and industries you serve is an important part of that equation.