WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) remarks at a Subcommittee on Communications and Technology markup on legislation ranging from the federal spectrum to rural broadband.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this markup, and for working with myself, Mr. Latta, and the Chairman of the full Committee, Mr. Pallone, on the legislation before us today.
Most of these bills today are bipartisan, and I thank you for your willingness to work constructively with us toward our shared goals of promoting broadband deployment in rural areas, securing our communications networks, and preserving NTIA’s role in managing federal spectrum resources across the federal government. It goes to show you what we can achieve when we work together in a bipartisan way. While I wish we could have spent more time working together this year on a variety of proposals, I hope we can continue this momentum going forward.
In particular, I want to thank the Chairman for taking up H.R. 4998, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. Last Congress, then-Ranking Member Pallone committed to working with me on these issues, and I’m pleased to see the committee follow through on this important topic.
With our national and economic security at stake, it is time that Congress sends a clear signal and that we put our money where our mouth is. Literally. I have heard from small, rural providers in my district and others around the country who are impacted by calls to replace existing equipment as they seek to stay within their budgets, not to mention within Federal programs’ purchasing guidance to deploy secure and effective products. The message is clear: these providers need certainty going forward, and they could be left in the lurch as they await new CAF-II funding that did not include planning for these new prohibitions.
And while this reimbursement program is a great step forward in securing our networks, we must ensure that we’re not stuck back in this situation three years from now when the stakes may be only higher. That is why we will consider legislation today offered by Mr. Kinzinger, H.R. 4461, to ensure these smaller, rural broadband providers that typically don’t have access to sensitive information will be adequately informed so they do not make the wrong purchasing decisions in the future.
Switching gears, I’m also pleased to see we are considering broadband mapping legislation today. As everyone in the room is by now well aware, accurately mapping broadband availability in America is an issue I’ve been working on for two decades. As we continue our oversight of RAY BAUM’S Act implementation, we must ensure our Universal Service programs operate efficiently and effectively—and that begins with the broadband availability mapping that underpins responsible funding decisions.
And finally, the elephant in the room: STELAR Reauthorization. As most of you know, I have yet to be convinced that we need to reauthorize STELAR.
For those who see it as a vehicle to continue making media marketplace reforms, this Committee can and should examine such reforms in regular order and on their own merits, not as add-ons to an outdated policy.
Moreover, for those who claim that 870,000 consumers could lose access to TV content, I say show me the numbers—nobody has seen them. Meanwhile, broadcasters have committed to Chairman Graham in the Senate that they will work in good faith through the transition away from the distant signal license to a free and fair market to ensure consumers are protected.
While I have my doubts on the need to reauthorize STELAR, I remain committed to talking with my friends in the Majority as they work toward the full committee.
Thank you and I yield back.