TUESDAY TOPIC: FCC action on 5G must account for rural Americans

May 28, 2019

Right now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is deciding how best, and how quickly, a 5G network may feasibly be deployed across the nation. For Iowans struggling with a deepening digital divide, rapid deployment of a next generation, high-speed network is welcome.

The digital divide across rural states, including Iowa, is staggering. Despite commitments to deploy affordable, high-speed broadband across our state from the FCC and the Trump administration, our citizens unfortunately remain at risk of falling behind in today’s competitive, digitally-driven world. According to recently released rankings, Iowa currently ranks 39th in internet connectivity.

However, the efficient deployment of 5G is in jeopardy due to an aligned group of four foreign-operated satellite companies aggressively lobbying the FCC to allow them to sell vital “mid-band” (or C-band) spectrum on the secondary market.

A high-speed network like 5G requires far reaching and reliable spectrum capable of transmitting more data in quicker amounts of time, even with multiple users at once. That’s where the “C-band” spectrum comes in. C-band spectrum does exactly this and provides consumers the “sweet spot” of internet access that is needed for a 5G network.

The FCC is considering the most secure way to provide America’s networks with this C-band spectrum and propel America forward in the global race to 5G. That’s where the C-Band Alliance’s (CBA) plan comes in. The above-mentioned group of foreign-operated satellite companies has aligned to form the C-Band Alliance and continues to insistently promote their plan that would forgo a traditional FCC-led spectrum auction, and instead allow for them to privately sell the C-band spectrum on the secondary market to a buyer of their choosing. The cost? Up to $60 billion diverted from U.S. Treasury and taxpayers, into the pockets of foreign companies, and a worsened digital divide across Iowa’s already struggling communities.

The reality is, the outcome of the FCC’s decision will have direct effects on our communities right here in Iowa. This plan risks the success of rural America and completely ignores any progress the FCC and our state’s lawmakers have made toward connecting our rural communities.

Fair deployment of 5G starts with an open, fully transparent auction led by the FCC. FCC oversight would ensure incentive for a purchaser to invest in those hard-to-reach, remote areas across Iowa and neighboring states. The CBA’s plan ignores the tried-and-true auction method that the FCC is so experienced in. An auction for the C-band spectrum would see revenue of up to $60 billion and would benefit the U.S. Treasury and taxpayers.

Any action taken by the FCC must account for rural Americans and equally benefit our communities. I encourage you to contact Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley, both longtime champions for broadband development across Iowa, and ask that they urge the FCC to dismiss the CBA’s plan and instead host a fair and open auction that benefits rural communities and assists in bridging the digital divide.

Dwight Dial is a Lake City, Iowa farmer.

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