This week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).”  The purpose of the hearing was to examine the FCC’s various policies including those related to rural broadband deployment and infrastructure.  Senators from rural states in particular voiced their frustration with the lack of internet coverage for their constituents.  

The struggle for underserved rural communities is more poignant against the backdrop of 5G deployment.  Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) doubted whether 5G will ever make it to his state, and urged the FCC to push harder to close the digital divide so rural Americans can benefit from the internet economy.  Senator Tester and his colleagues called for more funding for rural broadband deployment, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued Congress and the FCC should focus on modernizing the infrastructure regulations that inhibit broadband deployment projects.  Chairman Pai claimed streamlining the regulatory process would benefit both 5G and rural broadband deployment. 

The FCC’s broadband coverage mapping data was another topic of discussion throughout the hearing.  Multiple senators urged the FCC to modernize its mapping data to ensure federal funding for rural broadband deployment is targeting the most underserved rural areas.  Chairman Pai shared these concerns and committed to improving the FCC’s coverage map to maximize the impact of federal funds.