PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Broadband Access Won’t Be Improved via More Government Red Tape or Shoveling Infrastructure Dollars to Redundant Networks

By at 6 May, 2021, 9:16 am

NEWS

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on broadband access and affordability, and a national advocate for entrepreneurs and small businesses is urging committee members to review the progress and policies of the past several years – along with the outstanding performance of private provider networks during the pandemic – in order to objectively assess effective policies and a path forward for closing the digital divide. Karen Kerrigan, president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council), said a flexible regulatory framework and strong collaboration between the federal government and the private sector have driven billions in private-sector investment, which has led to steady deployment, higher speeds, lower prices, more choices and innovative technologies for small businesses and all consumers.

“The facts are clear. The vast sums of investment made by private sector providers resulted in strong and innovative networks that withstood the demands of the pandemic and continue to carry our economy forward through the acceleration to all things digital. Imposing new burdens on the private sector and shoveling vast sums of tax dollars to poorly performing local government networks is a wasteful and antiquated strategy for addressing disparities and closing the digital divide,” said Kerrigan.

According to Kerrigan, while efforts are underway to help close the digital divide through programs such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and previous steps to accelerate 5G deployment and incentivize private investment, members of Congress and the Biden Administration must review the facts as a starting point for appropriating tax dollars into a big infrastructure package. Doing so would help them understand that as a result of private sector investment the cost of broadband is 20.2% less than in 2015, and speeds are 15.7% faster. Moreover, directing tax dollars to government-owned and managed networks for redundant infrastructure, as the Biden infrastructure plan does, would be a huge waste of tax dollars and do little to lower cost and increase broadband access or adoption. In fact, consumers pay higher prices for broadband in cities with a municipal provider than those without one.

“The main impediment standing in the way of deployment is local government barriers and red tape that prevent consumers and small businesses from getting better broadband and more innovative choices. Rewarding local government with federal tax dollars that keep their residents and small businesses from getting best-in-class broadband is foolish,” added Kerrigan.

In terms of providing greater affordability to low-income households, Kerrigan urged Congress and the Biden Administration to restructure the Universal Service Fund (USF) program, as she outlined in her comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

“Recreating the outdated regulatory wheel of old and throwing money to poorly performing government-owned networks that lack the incentive to innovate and invest is very 1970s. This policy playbook does not work, as evidenced by innovative broadband technologies developed and deployed by the private sector, and our positive experience during the pandemic. We need to do more of what’s working and fix what’s not – such as restructuring the USF – to close the digital divide and improve digital literacy. There’s an opportunity to do that, but resorting to antiquated policies and intrusive government regulation are backward-thinking approaches that will not work,” concluded Kerrigan.

CONTACT:

Karen Kerrigan, kkerrigan@sbecouncil.org

 

SBE Council is nonpartisan advocacy, research and education organization dedicated to protecting small business and promoting entrepreneurship. For more than 25 years, SBE Council has worked on and advanced a range of private sector and public policy initiatives to strengthen the ecosystem for strong startup activity and small business growth. Visit www.sbecouncil.org for additional information. Twitter: @SBECouncil

 

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