Congress should focus on regulatory inhibitors to broadband growth
Rather than throw more taxpayer money at the problem, Congress should look to help ease the regulations that are inhibiting high-speed internet growth. Tom Struble, tech policy manager for the free-market R Street Institute, called regulations the “biggest barrier to broadband deployment.”
He points out that providers often need approval from multiple government authorities. And, when dealing with wireless deployment, FCC consent is also needed. From various siting requirements to utility-pole access, the process can be frustratingly slow.
In preparation for the growth of 5G, this spring the FCC established new regulations at the federal level to aid the small-cell deployment needed for the new wireless technology. Now, a Senate bill named the Streamline Act aims to establish uniform time frames, or what Struble and other industry insiders call “shot clocks,” for state and local governments to review applications for broadband deployment permits.
“I think this is hugely important,” Struble said. “Most people don’t realize what an impediment this is.”
“I think this is crucial to the development of 5G,” he continued.
While Struble said most barriers to speedy broadband deployment are at the state and local level, he said the FCC has been too slow in opening up wireless spectrum via auctions. He can recall discussions in 2013 about that topic when he worked for the mobility division of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau that continue today without action.
“That’s sort of emblematic of how slow the FCC works,” he said.
“Because of the future promise of 5G, which have already produced field trials in rural areas with download speeds in the several hundred megabits per second, and the growth of satellite broadband, it would behoove federal officials to hold off on spending additional money on wireline internet,” Struble said.
“If these other options are legitimate, we shouldn’t be pumping billions into building fiber everywhere,” he said. “We would have wasted a lot of money on obsolete technology.”