WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) hosted another meeting of his Rural Broadband Task Force. Congressman Wittman was joined by Jim Wasilewski, Deputy Chief of Staff to Assistant Secretary David Redl/Director of Congressional Affairs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Doug Kinkoph, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information, and other local stakeholders who represented internet service providers, the Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Cable and Telecommunication Association, and wireless internet service providers.
A full recording of the meeting can be found here.
“Right now, we are leaving thousands of people on the sidelines, not just in our district, but across the country,” Wittman said. “Significant human capital and economic development suffer without access to high-speed internet. For example, our rural hospitals lack access to telehealth services that better prepare our health care providers and small business growth is stifled without the ability to implement technology that spurs innovation and job creation.”
Currently almost 50% of rural Virginians either lack access to high speed internet or 29% don’t have any internet service at all. At this meeting, the Task Force discussed the unique challenges that are present in the region which hinder access to highspeed broadband services. This includes the labyrinth of red tape and regulations, cost of service, and varying geographic obstacles. Congressman Wittman believes that by addressing these issues and engaging federal agencies and other private stakeholders with localities, we can help bridge the digital divide.
“Today we reached an action plan of things that we can do in our office and items that can be accomplished through policy at the federal agency level,” Wittman said. “We took several comments from the audience and will continue to make the effort to incorporate the concerns and ideas of the community. To be successful we must define the unique elements of this area. We don’t want our efforts here to hurt existing businesses; we need to be coordinating and understanding how to best help all members of the community.”
The Taskforce also discussed services at the federal level that could help localities. Mr. Wasilewski discussed the federal program Broadband USA, which provides direct technical assistance to communities around the country, offers workshops to help local leaders solve problems, and create toolkits that help educate localities. This program works to expand access to broadband, as this is a key economic driver in America.
“The Congressman pulling the task force together today was great. These are the kind of communities we need to make sure broadband gets to,” said Mr. Wasilewski. “We need to have broadband in all areas. Broadband creates jobs, increases income, improves schools, and enhances healthcare. From an economic engine standpoint, it is critical to innovation and opens global markets.”
Rep. Wittman continues to be a leader on promoting access to broadband in rural areas. In May, Congressman Wittman attended the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association Annual Cable Show (VCTA), where he discussed the importance of expanding access to broadband in rural Virginia. On January 17, 2018 Congressman Wittman sent a letter to the Trump Administration advocating for increasing access to broadband in rural areas. Rep. Wittman urged the administration to include policies promoting broadband investments in any upcoming infrastructure package.
Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he is the Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.