MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
As Congress debates an infrastructure program, the business community urges you to enhance America’s digital infrastructure and achieve the goal of connecting all Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critically important it is for all Americans, including healthcare providers, students, and government to embrace digital tools. The internet has helped keep the “digital lights” on for small business struggling during the pandemic.
The pandemic also brought to light gaps in the nation’s digital infrastructure. Although the nation’s private-sector networks led the world in connectivity during the height of the pandemic, the last year demonstrated that too many Americans lack access to high-speed connectivity. Government information technology systems, which many Americans had to rely on for pandemic assistance, crashed because they were woefully outdated.
As Congress considers an infrastructure package this summer, we urge you to take the following steps in modernizing digital infrastructure.
• Embrace Public-Private Partnerships to Deploy Broadband: America’s private sector has built out the world’s largest and most advanced communications infrastructure in the world. Congress should direct funding to build broadband networks to areas of the country that lack access to broadband as defined by the FCC as 25Mbps/3 Mbps. America’s connectivity strategy should embrace the nation’s advantage, the private sector, and avoid government-operated networks.
• Address Connectivity Affordability the Right Way: COVID-19 impacted millions of Americans ability to pay for essential services. Congress has already taken temporary steps to help Americans pay for broadband through programs like the Emergency Broadband Benefit. In order to address long-term affordability for those in need, Congress should undertake steps to modernize existing programs like Lifeline as opposed to pricing and technology mandates.
• Modernize Federal, State, and Local Government IT: Government information technology is infrastructure. Unfortunately, too many government IT systems are woefully outdated and delaying economic growth. For example, many states continue to rely on 1950s era technology to address 21st century challenges like COVID-19 and post-pandemic recovery. State government benefits systems crashed trying to deliver needed assistance during the pandemic and agencies continue to use paper tracking for pandemic and vaccine tracking. Government must first and foremost work to modernize its own systems with assistance from private-sector solutions.
Investing in our digital infrastructure will enable the United States to better compete internationally, promote post-pandemic economic growth, and better prepare for emerging challenges.
For more information, click here to download the “3 Up/3 Down” on how policymakers should connect all Americans.