This week, the Senate Commerce Committee held a nomination hearing for Geoffrey Starks who was nominated to fill retiring Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In his opening statement, Starks told Committee Chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Florida) that rural broadband deployment and telemedicine would be top priorities for his tenure on the FCC.
Starks supports federal spending for rural broadband deployment and endorsed the $600 million for rural broadband included in the 2018 Omnibus, as well as the AIRWAVES Act, legislation introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) that would invest new funds for broadband deployment. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) asked Starks if he would work with other agencies, specifically the Bureau of Land Management, to find solutions to barriers for rural broadband deployment and Starks said he would.
Earlier this week, the Senate Broadband Caucus met to discuss the benefits of broadband deployment to precision agriculture and other rural industries. The purpose of the panel, and the Caucus in general, was to broaden support within Congress for rural broadband funding. Throughout the panel, broadband deployment was depicted as a gatekeeper to the future of rural economic development. Lawmakers repeatedly compared rural broadband deployment today to the rural electrification movement of the early 20th Century that brought electricity to rural areas that lagged behind big cities.