Amata chairs joint hearing examining broadband access
Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, Chairman Aumua Amata presided over a joint hearing of both the Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, which is led by Chairman Rod Blum of Iowa, as Members examined broadband access in rural and remote locations.
“American Samoa needs better telecommunications and internet connectivity, and Cyclone Gita showed the serious need for better infrastructure and services,” said Aumua Amata. “Communities with smaller populations in remote areas often depend on area providers of internet services, where the major nationwide providers haven’t invested. It’s important that people have the affordable access they need to use these services. We need to take every opportunity to reduce barriers, and take steps to sustain and improve these much-needed services.”
The hearing was titled, “Disconnected: Rural Broadband and the Business Case for Small Carriers.” Specifically, the hearing examined the digital divide between urban and rural carriers, and the disparities between the large carriers and the small carriers.
“Expanding broadband access in American Samoa and the insular territories is a priority,” continued Chairman Amata. “We know that deploying broadband in rural and higher-cost areas cannot be built solely on the shoulders of small carriers, but must be a functional and bilateral partnership with large carriers and responsible regulatory bodies. As plans evolve, it is our duty to ensure that all our people have access to robust, speedy wireless internet and telecommunications services at reasonable costs.”
The following witnesses testified: Ms. Erin Fitzgerald, Regulatory Counsel, for the Rural Wireless Association, Inc.; Mr. Tim Donovan, Senior Vice President, Legislative Affairs, for the Competitive Carriers Association; Mr. Paul Carliner, Co-Founder, Bloosurf, LLC; and Mr. Derrick Owens, Senior Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs, for WTA — Advocates for Rural Broadband.
(Below is the full text of Aumua Amata’s Opening Remarks)
Talofa, good morning. This hearing will come to order.
First, I’d like to thank our witnesses for taking the time to share their thoughts with us today, I look forward to your testimony. I’d also like to thank Chairman Blum for co-leading this important discussion.
Today’s joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Health and Technology, and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade will focus on challenges facing small internet service providers deploying broadband to rural, high-cost areas. This hearing expands upon past conversations started in Committee and recently continued in a hearing led by Chairman Blum a few short weeks ago.
This topic is of particular significance to the people of American Samoa as our telecommunications and internet connectivity is severely lacking, especially in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita. As our world becomes increasingly dependent on a robust telecommunications service and wireless internet, the lack of it in places like American Samoa and rural America becomes even more glaring. These high-cost areas depend upon the industriousness and commitment to deploying robust, accessible broadband by small, rural, and regional internet service providers. However, challenges facing these carriers in obtaining adequate financing and competing against large, nationwide carriers significantly impede forward progress, further exacerbating the disparities between urban and rural communities.
Having this connectivity is critical, not only to stimulate economic growth, but also to ensure a basic level of connectivity for our citizens, such as the ability to place a call to loved ones and first responders in the event of an emergency or disaster. As we begin to examine the current state of America’s infrastructure and take steps to improve our Nation’s highways and buildings, we need to ensure that broadband is at the front and center of all infrastructure discussions.