Revitalizing America’s infrastructure and economy

Broadband cables
Editor's note:

On March 22, 2021, Tom Wheeler, Visiting Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution and former FCC chair, testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for a hearing entitled, “LIFT America: Revitalizing Our Nation’s Infrastructure and Economy.” In his remarks, Wheeler discusses the importance of expanding support for both broadband deployment and adoption across the U.S. Read Wheeler’s testimony below.

Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers, Members of the Committee, it is a privilege to appear before you again.

The Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT) Act means that everyone in America can finally have the 21st century communications services they will need to participate in our society, our economy, and our democracy. Because it departs from the disconnects resulting from trying to make internet era realities work within telephone era concepts, LIFT is an historic opportunity for all Americans to redefine their expectations about the high-speed broadband service that is necessary to experience the benefits of the internet.

The internet is the most powerful platform in the history of the planet. Unfortunately, it is not yet pervasive.

COVID has made us re-appreciate the things the internet allows us to accomplish. COVID has also identified the adverse effects arising from the absence of adequate high-speed broadband, whether it is unavailable, inadequate, or too expensive. Just look at the headlines:

  • “Why rural Americans are having a hard time working from home,” CNN, 4/29/20
  • “America’s Terrible Internet Is Making Quarantine Worse,” The Atlantic, 8/17/20
  • “School sends California family a hotspot after students went to Taco Bell to use their free WiFi,” CNN, 8/31/20
  • “The latest crisis: Low-income students are dropping out of college this fall in alarming numbers; Many low-income students say they don’t have good enough WiFi at home to take online classes,” Washington Post, 9/16/20
  • “A year into the pandemic, thousands of students still can’t get reliable WiFi for school,” USA Today, 2/4/21

Members of the committee, examples like this are not an example of the Digital Divide, they tell the story of a Digital Chasm. Crossing that chasm means expanding support for both broadband deployment and adoption.

Continue reading the full testimony here. Watch full video of Wheeler’s testimony (starting around the 49:00 mark) and the rest of the hearing below.