US Small Business Speed Needs for Fiber
With many jobs, schools, and healthcare services shifting to virtual environments in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need to deliver broadband connectivity across America has never been greater. Since 2018, the number of Americans without access to at least 25/3 Mbps has dropped from 18.1 million to fewer than 14.5 million. However, continuous effort must be made to close the digital divide.
The Federal Communications Commission has sought to close the divide by removing barriers to and encouraging Broadband Investment. This includes balancing need for wireless providers to have clear rules when they upgrade existing infrastructure with the need for state and local governments to enforce legitimate zoning requirements.
There should also be universal service support which plays an essential role in deploying broadband networks, particularly in rural, insular, and hard-to-serve areas. The Commission’s Universal Service Fund provides funding to increase the availability of telecommunication services and broadband Internet access services for low-income households, rural health care providers, schools and libraries, and consumers in high-cost areas. As part of its oversight responsibilities, the Commission routinely considers ways to maximize the effect of available Universal Service Fund funding to support broadband deployment. As of November 2020, nearly $1.5 billion has been to fund the expansion of connectivity to nearly 703,000 homes and small businesses nationwide. Funds has also been allocated to support the improvement, expansion and hardening of communications n Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The access to spectrum in the low-, mid-, and high-frequency bands for mobile providers to develop and deploy new technologies like 5G and to support existing 4G LTE networks has also improved. This includes making low-band spectrum available for the development of critical wireless broadband technologies and services and more mid-band spectrum available for 5G deployment.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, several changes have also been adopted to suit the need for remote work and other remote tools. More than 800 companies have signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure that users will not lose access due to any economic reasons. A few mobile services provide have also went the extra mile to increase hotspot data allotments and adding new low-cost plans.
The efforts of the commission have been encouraging however there is still much to be done to close the digital gap. And the commission must continue to work on removing barriers to deployment. The further deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities will remain a top priority of the commission.