Update: Supreme Court to Decide Whether the CWA Regulates Discharges through Groundwater to Waters of the United States
Good morning. Today, the committee gathers to discuss the state of the nation’s broadband maps. I am glad to convene this hearing with my colleague, Ranking Member Cantwell. I welcome our witnesses today:
- Mr. Tim Donovan, Senior Vice President, with the Competitive Carriers Association
- Mr. Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
- Mr. Jonathan Spalter, President and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association;
- Mr. Chip Strange, Vice President Strategic Initiatives, Ookla; and
- Mr. Mike Obilzalo, Vice President and General Manager, Hood Canal Communications.
In today’s digital economy, access to broadband is essential. It is through broadband that Americans can access jobs, education, and economic opportunities. Broadband also powers new industries and enables core economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation to be more efficient, productive, and competitive in the United States and around the globe.
In February, the Federal Communications Commission issued its draft 2019 Broadband Deployment Report showing gains in broadband connectivity throughout the country. However, the digital divide persists for far too many families in Mississippi and across the nation.
As I have said before, we are almost one-fifth of the way through the 21stCentury, hard to believe. And we ought to be able to get all Americans connected soon.
To close the digital divide, we need to have accurate broadband maps that tell us where broadband is available and where it is not available at certain speeds. This is critical because maps are used to inform federal agencies about where to direct broadband support. Flawed and inaccurate maps ultimately waste resources and stifle opportunities for economic development in our rural and underserved communities.
I hope our witnesses today will speak to the costs, timing, and potential challenges to collecting more accurate and granular broadband coverage data, including whether the data will be too out of date to be useful once it is all gathered.
I would also like the witnesses to address how to improve existing broadband mapping approaches at the FCC and NTIA, and whether the FCC is collecting the right data to determine the availability of fixed and reliable mobile broadband across the country.
Improving the nation’s broadband maps starts with better coordination and information sharing among federal agencies responsible for administering broadband deployment programs.
I hope we will soon have legislation in this regard. It is important that the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture work cooperatively to coordinate and share information on broadband coverage data and broadband deployment programs.
Increased coordination and information sharing would enhance efforts to develop a more accurate broadband map and ensure federal funds are targeted to unserved areas.
Improving broadband maps also requires the collection of more granular and accurate data about existing broadband coverage. To that end, I welcome the FCC’s ongoing proceeding to address shortcomings in its Form 477, which is used to collect broadband deployment data from service providers twice a year. The data is then used to develop a broadband map that helps the Commission determine areas that are eligible for Universal Service support.
An obvious concern with the Form, among others, is that it asks providers to submit data about where they couldprovide service to a location within a service interval without an extraordinary commitment of resources. This service interval is approximately 7 to 10 business days.
I hope the witnesses will comment on ideas being discussed to replace or supplement the Form 477 data, such as using location-based proposals or shapefile-based proposals.
In submitting information about where service could be provided, I am concerned that this information is represented on the FCC’s broadband availability maps with little verification about whether the service provider could or would actually provide the service at the advertised speed. Incorporating data about where service could be provided may ultimately lead to overstated broadband coverage and availability on maps.
So I would like the witnesses to comment on the value of maintaining a challenge process after data is collected to verify the accuracy of the data provided to the FCC.
Developing accurate broadband maps is a priority for this Committee. With so much at stake, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to ensure that we have sound understanding of existing broadband availability across the country.
The committee welcomes input from the witnesses on the appropriate role for Congress in developing accurate maps.
I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on these issues and again welcome all of our witnesses.
The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access will meet for a hearing titled, “SBA 7(a) Budget Proposal and the Impact of Fee Structure Changes.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is SBA’s flagship lending program, guaranteeing more than 60,000 small business loans totaling $25.4 billion. Traditionally, the program relies on a combination of fees and recoveries of collateral on defaulted loans to operate without appropriations from Congress. However, in its budget request to Congress for FY2020, SBA predicts a funding shortfall in the program, and in response, proposes numerous fee increases to cover the shortfall. The purpose of this hearing is to provide Members the opportunity to examine the SBA’s budget and consider how the changes will impact small business lending.
To view the livestream of the hearing, click here.
Mr. Tim Gribben
Chief Financial Officer and Association Administrator for Performance Management
U.S. Small Business Administration
Mr. Tony Wilkinson
President & CEO
National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders
*Witness testimony will be posted within 24 hours after the hearing’s occurrence