To ensure limited federal resources are used as effectively as possible to achieve universal broadband service, policymakers should continue to support defining and mapping broadband service nationwide so we focus first on unserved areas, said Doug Brake in testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications Technology.
Broadband access is necessary to participate in the 21st century economy; it accelerates social opportunity and economic growth. Accelerated deployment of advanced broadband infrastructure understandably sees bipartisan appeal, and expanding the geographic footprint of the nation’s digital infrastructure should be a significant part of any infrastructure plan. Investment in broadband, as well as other smart infrastructures, will result in considerably greater economic returns to the national economy than simply throwing money at concrete.
Thankfully, the existing private-investment framework for broadband has seen tremendous achievement, attracting capital expenditures that make U.S. broadband an international success story. While users will probably always want more, faster, and cheaper access, the light-touch oversight of increasingly competitive broadband has worked incredibly well, overseeing dramatic increases in network coverage and capacity supporting a flourishing U.S. digital ecosystem. The nation’s networks and the services they enable are key tools in advancing U.S. competitiveness and productivity—getting these policies right matters.
Despite this success, more can and should be done to ensure that virtually all U.S. residents have access to robust broadband services. But providing the infrastructure to support universal broadband is expensive, and public dollars should be targeted where they will be most cost-effective in achieving our policy goals. Deciding where federal support is justified, and achieving the biggest return on necessarily limited investment requires a firm grasp on what those policy goals should be, as well as the geographic state of existing broadband offerings. While more information is generally better than less, if infrastructure funding is provided through a market-based approach, for example through procurement or reverse auctions, the need for highly detailed maps is greatly reduced.