Washington, DC – This week, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing with all five Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners to hear about their efforts to keep Americans connected during COVID-19, award telehealth grants to connect doctors and patients remotely, make spectrum available, deploy 5G, streamline internet regulations, combat illegal robocalls, and more.
Unfortunately, House Democrats attempted to use the hearing as an opportunity to blame the FCC for not working hard enough during COVID-19. However, House Democrats did not respond to a request from E&C GOP Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and C&T Subcommittee GOP Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) to hold a hearing on closing the digital divide and homework gap in June, nor have they included full funding for the FCC to implement two bipartisan laws led by E&C to help communications providers rip and replace Huawei gear, as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) pointed out, and improve broadband mapping. As Rep. Walden said in his opening statement, “we could have been working to expand broadband access for low-income and minority consumers, but the Committee wasted five months, focusing instead on, I quote, ‘mak[ing] sure big corporations don’t use their power to undermine and silence their small competitors or the political opposition.’ I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen—at least not by broadband providers.”
At the hearing, the FCC highlighted their accomplishments over the last four years under Chairman Pai’s leadership and E&C Republicans discussed their efforts in Congress to give the FCC the resources it needs to protect consumers, close the digital divide, protect public safety, and more.
You can watch the hearing here, and read a few highlights below.
Keeping Americans Connected During COVID-19
As C&T Subcommittee GOP Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) pointed out in his opening statement, the FCC and the communication industry had a “swift, overwhelming response” to keep Americans connected during COVID-19. The FCC’s Keep Americans Connected pledge helped Americans of all walks of life stay connected as they worked, learned, and received health care from home, “even if they couldn’t foot the bill.”
The FCC also quickly implemented a telehealth grant program created by Congress through the CARES Act and awarded $200 million to 539 sites across 47 states to connect patients to their doctors remotely. Rep. Latta also pointed out that this helped a doctor in his congressional district go from seeing 437 patients remotely to more than 16,000.
Making Spectrum Available to Deploy 5G Across U.S. Communities
Rep. Walden highlighted the successful spectrum auctions held by the FCC to incentivize private sector investment in 5G and efforts by the Trump administration to make more spectrum available for commercial use. Walden asked the commissioners if they oppose a nationalized 5G network as we’ve seen in socialist countries, to which all commissioners said yes. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) also asked the commissioners if they agree more spectrum is needed and more mid-band is spectrum for 5G, to which all the commissioners said yes.
Rep. Susan Brooks also highlighted the FCC’s recently enacted 5G upgrade order to accelerate the deployment of 5G infrastructure to help consumers using more data than ever before and connect consumers with broadband services.
Creating a Light-Touch Regulatory Framework for the Internet
Just a few years ago, we all heard how net neutrality was going to destroy the internet as we know it. As Minority Whip Steve Scalise pointed out, “we’re literally have a hearing right now using the internet, and I remember back when Chairman Pai and other leaders were right to say that this net neutrality policy that would have really devastated the internet.” Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) also called attention to “how our networks have held up and even thrived during this pandemic.”
Stopping Illegal Robocalls
Rep. Kinzinger highlighted efforts by Congress and the FCC to stop illegal robocalls. The FCC has been working to implement the bipartisan TRACED Act which became law late last year to help crack down on these bad actors, and already illegal robocalls have been down 60 percent this year.
Commissioner Carr Thanks GOP Leader Walden
In his opening testimony, Commissioner Brendan Carr thanked Walden for his years of service in Congress saying:
“I want to thank a moment to recognize and express my gratitude to the Committee’s Republican Leader Greg Walden. Since he announced his retirement, this may be the last time I have the honor to appear before him in Congress. As former Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Walden has had one of the most consequential runs in Congress. Among his many legislative accomplishments, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Act provided the spectrum and infrastructure reforms necessary for America to lead the world in 4G and now extend that leadership into 5G. More recently, his work on the RAY BAUM’s Act of 2018 operated not only as an important piece of legislation, but as a fitting tribute to his friend and a lifelong advocate for expanding connectivity in this country.”