Paso Chamber Signs Letter to United States Congress Urging to Prioritize Enhancing America’s Digital Infrastructure.
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
As Congress prepares to consider infrastructure legislation, the business community urges you to prioritize enhancing America’s digital infrastructure and achieving the goal of connecting all Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critical it is for Americans, especially healthcare providers, students, and government, to embrace digital tools. The internet has helped to keep the “digital lights” on for small business struggling during the pandemic.
The pandemic has highlighted gaps in America’s digital infrastructure. Although private-sector networks led the world in connectivity during the height of the pandemic, the last year demonstrated a lack of access to high-speed connectivity. Government information technology systems that Americans relied on crashed because they were outdated and insufficient.
As Congress considers an infrastructure package, we urge you to take the following steps to modernize digital infrastructure:
Embrace Public-Private Partnerships to Deploy Broadband: America’s private sector has built one of the largest and most advanced communications infrastructures in the world. Congress should direct funding to build broadband networks to areas of the United States that lack access to broadband as defined by the FCC as 25Mbps/3 Mbps. America’s connectivity strategy should embrace 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. To address long-term affordability, 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 Unfortunately, too many government IT systems are woefully outdated and delay economic growth.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. Similarly, agencies continue to use paper tracking for pandemic and vaccine tracking. Government must first and foremost modernize its own systems in collaboration with private-sector solutions.
Investing in digital infrastructure will enable the United States to better compete internationally, promote post-pandemic economic growth, and better prepare for emerging challenges.