The vital role of wireless in our everyday lives is undeniable – from access to doctors, schools, and work, among other things, we depend on wireless. We are 100 days into President Biden’s administration—a good milestone to take a look at much needed policy goals to give Americans access to the best wireless possible. Here is a snapshot of where we stand:
Wireless is critical in providing access to broadband to many Americans. In fact, 26% of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are now smartphone-only. Further, in 2019, 65% of households in America were wireless-only. Congressional appropriations during the first 100 Days allocated critical resources to keeping Americans connected. In addition to this action, the FCC should move forward with the 5G Fund—with accurate broadband maps—to accelerate the deployment of next generation services to underserved Americans, leverage funds available.
Public-private partnerships have clearly demonstrated what’s achievable with wireless providers offering low-income Americans low cost broadband and wireless providers working with school districts across the country to bring access to millions of students in need of a broadband connection.
The backbone of our wireless network is spectrum. Mid-band spectrum is especially key to the deployment of next generation wireless. Earlier this year, the FCC moved forward with plans to auction spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band, and the auction is expected to begin in early October. This is an important step in freeing up additional licensed spectrum, but is not the only opportunity. Congressional action is also needed to create a new pipeline of spectrum to avoid delayed network builds and help Americans realize the benefits of the 5G economy.
Americans need certainty for our online data, so that no matter where you are your private information should remain private. In the absence of a national law, states across the country have introduced their own legislation, including Virginia where legislation was recently enacted.
This is a problem for consumers for many reasons, least of which is that the internet doesn’t recognize state boundaries, so the protections being established are inconsistent and ineffective at best. To improve privacy we need a national privacy law that empowers Americans to learn how personal data is being collected and used.
Broadband access is not a partisan issue – it is critical for so many things including telehealth, agriculture, education, and simply for connecting to family and friends, and President Biden and his administration have made it clear that connectivity is of importance. We must keep focused on these policy goals in order to increase access to broadband, close the digital divide, and unleash the potential of the 5G economy.