Senator Hears From FCC Commissioner, Business Leaders, & Broadband Experts
KEENE – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan convened a field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, where she highlighted the importance of expanding broadband infrastructure, especially in rural areas throughout New Hampshire and across the country.
The hearing was held at Keene State College and witnesses included Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner; Joshua Cyr, Director of Education and Acceleration at Alpha Loft; Mike Reed, State President of Consolidated Communications; Brian Shepperd, Director of Broadband Services at UNH; Grant Spellmeyer, Vice President of Federal Affairs & Public Policy at US Cellular; and Tom Strickland, President and Co-Owner of Sequoya Technologies.
“Our people and businesses simply cannot compete in the 21st century innovation economy without broadband – and we must act now to address the urban-rural divide that has persisted for far too long,” Senator Hassan said. “The voices and priorities of today’s witnesses help provide critical evidence and context for those of us at the federal level as we make important decisions about rural connectivity.”
Senator Hassan highlighted her work to expand broadband technologies and close the digital divide between urban and rural areas in New Hampshire and across America, including the bipartisan AIRWAVES Act she introduced with Senator Gardner (R-CO) that would create a spectrum pipeline to avoid a “spectrum crunch,” as well as leverage the success of spectrum auctions to help close the urban-rural divide.
Additionally, the Senator stressed the importance of ensuring that broadband networks are resilient. “As we’ve seen with the storms that devastated Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas, there is an immediate need to ensure that when networks go down, we have solid plans in place to build them back up or stand up back-up power sources so that individuals can connect to resources and their loved ones,” Senator Hassan said.
As part of her efforts to strengthen broadband deployment, Senator Hassan voted to approve the MOBILE Now Act, which will remove barriers to wireless broadband deployment, as well as the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act, to improve the quality of calls to and from rural areas.
See below for quotes from some of the hearing witnesses:
“No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to modern communications for a fair shot at 21st century success,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated. “It is simply unacceptable that far too many Americans lack access to broadband. I thank Senator Hassan for holding this important hearing and for her efforts to address the urban-rural digital divide. I look forward to continue working together so that no child misses out on an opportunity to develop digital skills that are essential for education and the modern economy.”
“In my role at Alpha Loft and as a former software developer, I have pondered the topic of broadband in New Hampshire from a perspective of business and consumer need, state health, and in a vision of what is to come,” Josh Cyr of Alpha Loft said. “It is clear that we are not meeting today’s broadband needs – or the future needs – for many citizens in New Hampshire. If we don’t work to address the issue soon, it will take a dramatic toll our state’s economic success.”
“New Hampshire’s broadband providers have made significant progress over the past few years, but still have a lot of work to do to ensure that all of our community anchor institutions, businesses, and residents have access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband,” said Brian Shepperd of UNH. “Since her time as Governor establishing the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative, to her most recent efforts in the Senate introducing the AIRWAVES Act, Senator Hassan has been a leader in helping to expand broadband deployment, especially as it pertains to the education of students across the state.”
“Quality, high-speed broadband has become as essential to business growth today as rivers were in the 18th and 19th centuries and as interstate highways were in the 20th,” said Tom Strickland of Sequoya Technologies in Peterborough. “If we want New Hampshire to be able to compete in the 21st century, it is critical that businesses in every corner of our state have access to high-speed broadband. As Senator Hassan continues working to closing the urban-rural digital divide, I encourage her and the rest of the Commerce committee to act quickly to establish the regulatory framework needed to encourage the deployment of broadband infrastructure to New Hampshire and to the rest of the United States.”