Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein pledged to work with Congress as lawmakers craft an infrastructure package as part of COVID relief. He cited House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s (D-SC) Affordable Internet for All Act as “warranted.” Inside Towers reported Clyburn intends to reintroduce the measure soon. The connectivity package released Tuesday by Committee Republicans also includes a lot of helpful policies, said the telecom association executive during a broadband hearing before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday.
“An infrastructure package should make the best use of co-location, which efficiently leverages existing infrastructure — and capital for new infrastructure — while reducing disruption to communities,” said Adelstein to the group. “Congress should ensure that funds can be used for operational expenses, such as leases, as well as capital expenses — and hold recipients accountable for outcomes.” He also believes the legislation should be technology neutral — building infrastructure with the most cost-efficient means to get the most bandwidth to the most consumers.
Adelstein urged lawmakers to prioritize building a more skilled 5G workforce. “You have an opportunity to put Americans hurt by the pandemic back to work in high-wage jobs that provide opportunities for advancement. As the wireless industry continues to grow, these workers will speed economic recovery,” he explained.
He stressed funding should support employers and programs that adopt registered apprenticeships, noting that Congress can take the opportunity to reskill dislocated workers and diversify the workforce to do these jobs. He recommends that Congress instills programs at institutions of higher education, such as community and technical colleges and HBCUs. “Congress can fund partnerships driven by employers with educational institutions to develop programs on broadband deployment and 5G,” he said.
Citing a new Gallup poll released yesterday, Adelstein said it found 90 percent of the public supports investing in the broadband workforce as a priority — with “overwhelming” majorities from both parties.