U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, today discussed an upcoming subcommittee hearing on building resilient broadband networks. Thune announced that Denny Law, CEO of Golden West Telecommunications, will join him at the hearing to discuss the challenges of deploying strong and resilient broadband in rural areas. Thune also highlighted multiple bills he has introduced, including the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act, Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act, and STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, to help improve internet connectivity in communities across South Dakota by strengthening broadband and investing in 5G deployment. Reliable, fast internet is an essential element of our nation’s infrastructure. Like roads and bridges, strong internet networks keep our economy going.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, on Tuesday the Commerce subcommittee of which I am the ranking member – the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband – will hold a hearing on building resilient broadband networks.
“My hope is that this hearing will help inform discussions of broadband funding in any infrastructure legislation.
“I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from Denny Law, the CEO of Golden West Telecommunications in South Dakota, who will speak on the challenges of deploying reliable and resilient broadband in rural areas.
“Mr. President, the pandemic provided the most significant test to date of the resiliency of our broadband networks.
“Overnight – quite literally – our networks faced huge new demands.
“As the nation locked down, demand for broadband shot up.
“Our phones and tablets and laptops became our main way of communicating with friends and family – and for many of us, our main way of doing our jobs.
“Video conferencing exploded – staff meetings, strategy meetings, virtual happy hours, telemedicine.
“And how did our networks stand up to the demand?
“They exceeded expectations – and vindicated the United States’ light-tough regulatory approach to broadband policy.
“While networks in Europe and elsewhere slowed streaming speeds in order to keep their networks up and running, U.S. networks maintained both their speed and quality.
“It was a real American success story.
“Mr. President, the success of American networks during the pandemic was the result of sustained investment by U.S. telecommunications companies, who have made network reliability a priority.
“Congress should continue to encourage this kind of private investment and maintain a regulatory regime that allows companies to make the kind of choices and investments that have resulted in strong and resilient U.S. networks.
“Mr. President, going forward, one of our priorities here in Congress has to be supporting the continued development of 5G.
“U.S. companies are already building out 5G networks, but there’s more work to be done.
“We need to remove regulatory and permitting hurdles to deployment and ensure that companies have access to the spectrum they need to build strong networks.
“Increasing spectrum availability will spur 5G deployments, and we need to build on previous efforts to make spectrum available like my MOBILE NOW Act.
“I’ve also repeatedly introduced legislation – the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act – to address another key part of the 5G equation – infrastructure.
“5G technology requires not just traditional cell phone towers, but small antennas called “small cells” that can often be attached to existing infrastructure like utility poles or buildings.
“The Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Pai modernized its regulations for the approval of small cells, but more work can be done to expedite small cell deployment.
“The STREAMLINE Act focuses on updating current law to better reflect emerging technology and speed up permitting, while respecting the role of state and local governments in making deployment decisions.
“Mr. President, adequate spectrum and the ability to efficiently deploy infrastructure are essential for building out strong U.S. 5G networks.
“But there’s another key part of the equation – and that’s having a sufficient workforce to meet the demands of 5G deployment and, later, 5G network maintenance.
“That’s why I’ve introduced the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act.
“My bill would help increase the number of workers enrolled in 5G training programs and identify ways to grow the telecommunications workforce to meet the demands of 5G.
“Mr. President, as a resident of a rural state, expanding broadband access in rural areas has long been a priority of mine here in the Senate.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years, but there’s more work to be done.
“I recently introduced the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act along with Senators Hassan, Moran, and Cortez Masto.
“Our legislation would set aside proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the FCC to build out broadband in unserved areas.
“It’s essential that we expedite the deployment of fixed broadband in rural areas because this technology is necessary groundwork for 5G deployment.
“Without reliable broadband, rural areas will be excluded from access to 5G.
“Mr. President, reliable, fast internet is an essential element of our nation’s infrastructure.
“Like roads and bridges and railways and airports, strong internet networks keep our economy going.
“And any infrastructure package should make an investment in broadband and 5G, as well as including regulatory relief like that in my STREAMLINE Act to expedite 5G deployment.
“However, we need to make sure that any federal money is allocated in the most efficient manner possible and distributed responsibly with coordination by expert agencies like the Federal Communications Commission to prevent waste.
“We don’t want another situation like what happened in the wake of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided more than $7 billion to multiple agencies for rural broadband deployment, a majority of which was wasted, resulting in just a fraction of the access that was promised.
“Mr. President, I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s hearing.
“And I will continue to work to advance nationwide 5G deployment and ensure that rural communities receive the full benefits of the 5G revolution.”