NATE, WISPA Like Administration’s Infrastructure Plan

UPDATE More reaction is coming in for President Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal. The plan calls for Congress to write legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that focuses on public-private partnerships, Inside Towers reported.

The National Association of Tower Erectors applauded the plan. “The principles outlined in the administration’s initiative such as prioritizing broadband as a vital part of infrastructure, new infrastructure investments into rural America and reducing regulatory barriers to deploy infrastructure are issues NATE has advocated for years and will greatly benefit Americans,” said NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. NATE member companies and the wireless industry are ready to work to deploy and maintain new communications infrastructure in all corners of the country, he added.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), too, praised the plan, noting its strong emphasis on expanding investment in rural broadband networks. However, the group cautioned that any new federal support for rural broadband should not be used to subsidize large broadband carriers to compete against smaller ones, which WISPA says “has happened all too often in the past.” 

WISPA believes fixed wireless technology is the most cost-effective solution for broadband access, especially in rural areas. WISPA Chairman Chuck Hogg encouraged the Trump administration and the Congress to take a new approach and not focus primarily on subsidies. “All too often, subsidies tend to reinforce the dominance of larger carriers and non-cost-effective technologies. Any new subsidies must be distributed in a way that is technology-neutral, cost-effective, performance-based, and accessible to smaller providers.”

In Congress, before the infrastructure document was released Monday, some GOP lawmakers said broadband infrastructure requires dedicated funding and they believed without that, the plan should be tweaked to ensure states don’t divert broadband funding for other infrastructure. Yesterday, Senate Broadband Caucus co-chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and GOP leadership member Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) refined their comments. Capito called it “a great starting point” and said she’s confident it will lead to a strong and comprehensive legislative proposal. Blunt concurred, stating: “The president’s focus on expediting new projects, leveraging federal dollars to boost state, local, and private-sector investment, and modernizing rural infrastructure, including broadband expansion, provides a solid foundation for the committee to begin its work on a broad, bipartisan bill.”

Some Democrats, like House Reps. Peter Welch of Vermont and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, decried the lack of specific broadband funding in the infrastructure proposal. Welch of Vermont called that a “glaring omission” and “a missed opportunity to close the digital divide that separates rural and urban America.”  

February 14, 2018

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