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Wicker: Biden’s Woke Appointees Stall Broadband Expansion

By Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Democrats Increase Internet Costs, Not Coverage

Families in Mississippi and other states across the American heartland are benefiting more and more these days from high speed internet. A light touch regulatory policy from the federal level has resulted in a massive build out of reliable broadband, allowing us to shrink the digital divide between urban and rural communities. Inexplicably, President Biden’s appointees are now taking steps to slow that progress. Liberal, unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are enacting the same top-down, “woke” agenda that has derailed other institutions.

Last month, the FCC took the first step of its radical agenda. They voted to approve a rule that would give them unprecedented ability to micromanage the way internet companies operate. Congress requires the FCC to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against customers on the basis of race or income. But under this new plan, the agency dramatically expands that authority beyond Congress’ intent. The FCC is using its statutory authority as a pretext for government overreach. This power grab will stifle innovation, hurt efforts to increase broadband access, and raise prices.

Activist Regulations Restrict Internet Access

In Congress, I have led initiatives to bring more internet connection to rural communities. In 2020, President Trump signed my Broadband DATA Act into law. This helped update the coverage maps used to allocate this investment. These maps were a key part of the $1.2 billion in federal broadband funding recently awarded to Mississippi.

The FCC’s new plan would almost certainly reverse that trend. It would create a slew of compliance rules, compelling internet companies to hire armies of lawyers just to keep up. This is not the best use of these funds. Businesses and their customers would be much better served by increasing spending on broadband infrastructure.

Democrat Policies Delay Broadband Expansion

When the FCC proposed this plan, conservatives experienced déjà vu. Once again, we watched as Democrats advocated for bureaucracy instead of innovation. From the earliest days of the internet, liberals claimed that restrictive regulations should be adopted to keep internet carriers from discriminating against Americans, jacking up prices, or blocking content. As it turned out, these heavy-handed policies slowed down the buildout of new broadband networks.

Fortunately, Republicans took back the White House under President Trump, and a GOP-led FCC adopted a lighter touch. The result was both positive and predictable. Internet coverage dramatically expanded. Democrats’ parade of horribles never came to pass.

President Should Prioritize Real Problems

When President Biden took office, he reverted to the same left-wing regulations that previously failed to work. His aides tried to institute this agenda by nominating partisans to the FCC. For two years, I helped prevent a Democratic majority from taking over the agency. And when these activists proposed their latest program, I joined the vocal Republican opposition.

If the president is serious about expanding access to broadband, he would begin by slashing red tape and bringing internet to underserved communities. Crushing federal regulations make it harder for companies to build networks. Instead, his administration should pay attention to the clear and present threats in digital spaces. The Chinese Communist Party routinely targets our youth with anti-American propaganda through TikTok. Meanwhile, the president is asleep at the switch.

Increasing internet coverage connects students with educational resources, helps entrepreneurs start businesses, and connects patients with doctors. The president’s party could join in that great work and get more Americans online by abandoning burdensome rules and incentivizing private investment.

This article is the weekly Wicker Report of U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and is provided by the Senator’s office.

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