Washington – Today, Business Roundtable released a set of policy principles for improving broadband access and bridging the digital divide. Business Roundtable also released a CEO video featuring business leaders underscoring the need for action on broadband access nationwide.
“At a time when American life is so reliant on being connected to learn, work and stay healthy, too many Americans, especially in rural communities and lower income households, lack access to high-speed and affordable internet. Business Roundtable CEOs are urging policymakers at all levels of government to enact meaningful change,” said Brendan Bechtel, Chairman and CEO of Bechtel Group, Inc. and Chair of the Business Roundtable Infrastructure Committee.
"Bipartisan efforts in recent weeks to develop near-term solutions to this issue and improve access to technology for schools, libraries and homes have been encouraging, but we need long-term solutions that ensure adequate connectivity for all Americans.” said Joshua Bolten, President & CEO of Business Roundtable.
With a focus on principles that help improve access to broadband and remote devices that will help underserved Americans engage in productive activities during the COVID-19 public health crisis and beyond, CEOs are urging policymakers at all levels to enact meaningful change, including:
Improve Coverage Mapping: Business Roundtable supports efforts by the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to more accurately map broadband deployment nationwide. Enhanced data mapping will better enable the identification of current gaps in broadband coverage, ensuring accurate measurement of the availability of high-speed coverage.
Increase and Modernize Federal Investments: A 2017 FCC report estimates it would cost $80 billion to bring high-speed internet to the remaining unserved parts of the United States.
- Business Roundtable supports the use of incentive spectrum auctions to help fund the buildout of broadband infrastructure.
- Business Roundtable also supports the distribution of existing funding sources to build broadband infrastructure and the creation, through legislation, of significant, consistent and reliable funding to help close the rural broadband gap.
- Programs such as those established within the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, including Lifeline and E-rate, should be modernized to ensure access for underserved households, schools, libraries and health providers in urban and suburban areas.
Accelerate Deployment: The federal government should work with its state and local counterparts to streamline permitting and reduce regulatory barriers for broadband deployment. For example, state and local governments should adopt uniform timeframes for reviewing broadband deployment applications and accelerate the distribution of FCC funding for shovel-ready high-speed internet projects.
Encourage Private Sector Investment: Policies to expand access to broadband should encourage private sector investment and market competition. Allowing flexibility to providers will also help ensure networks are sustainable in the long term and can continue to grow to meet evolving needs.
Business Roundtable also released an accompanying CEO video, featuring Brendan Bechtel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Bechtel Group, Inc.; Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer, Accenture and Chair of the Business Roundtable Technology Committee; Beth Ford, President and Chief Executive Officer, Land O’Lakes Inc.; Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Verizon Communications and Robert Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.
These CEOs outlined the reasons why broadband access is an urgent and critical need for Americans, including:
“We need to more accurately map broadband deployment nationwide. Enhanced data mapping can help us identify the current gaps in broadband coverage, ensuring that all Americans can stay connected at the scale we need. Increasing and modernizing federal investment is also important to ensuring the benefits of broadband are more widely shared with all Americans,” said Bechtel.
“Expanding access to broadband is an urgent and critical need for rural America. Our agricultural communities will suffer without stable access to high-speed internet. Everything from weather information, crop yield, animal health and sustainability practices can be improved with this technology,” said Ford.
“The private sector has done a lot to invest money in these types of technologies to see that all Americans get access. But however, still today, we have that challenge in rural America, we don’t have that broadband connectivity. So we need to continue to work together; public and private sector to really create that accessibility and affordability and usability for all of the citizens of the United States,” said Vestberg.
“As a country, we have made significant improvements in broadband access, but long-term solutions are essential to ensure that those in need can stay connected. Technology is a powerful tool at our disposal and broadband solutions will close the connectivity gap in America,” said Sweet.
“Where you live should not determine whether you have broadband access. One-third of Black households in the United States still have no broadband Internet or computer, which means adults can’t work from home and children can’t learn from home. We need to address this injustice and eliminate broadband deserts. We need to increase and modernize federal investments to build out broadband infrastructure and provide support to families and communities with the greatest need. We cannot wait,” said Smith.