Upton, Latta Discuss Emergency Communications and Rural Broadband Issues with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

August 18, 2014

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH) last week each hosted Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai in their districts to discuss a number of issues before the FCC.

Commissioner Pai joined Latta in Northwest Ohio on Thursday to discuss the necessity for ensuring rural access to broadband Internet. On Friday, Pai was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with Upton to discuss the implementation of FirstNet, the nation’s first interoperable public safety communications network, with local first responders.

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Ajit Pai, one of five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission, was in northwest Ohio on Thursday on somewhat of a fact-finding tour.

Mr. Pai, a Republican appointed in 2012 by President Obama, joined U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) to find out about the problems facing communications businesses and residents. …

Mr. Pai said one of the challenges for the FCC is to help make broadband available even in rural parts of the country. He said it’s difficult for companies to deploy “next-generation infrastructure” in areas that are not densely populated.

“One of the things I’m going to take home is the challenges that I’ve heard from the telephone companies, from the cable companies, and others that we’ve met with today to see if there are ways for the FCC to prioritize policies that will make it easier for companies to take the risk, to spend the capital, to make the investments in broadband in rural areas.”

He said he’s worried that people will move away from rural areas where it’s hard to connect to the Internet, “and that’s a disaster in the making for rural America.” …

Mr. Latta is vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee. He emphasized the wide range of issues facing the FCC, including the growing demand for wireless spectrum.

“We’ve got cars that are talking to each other, a lot of equipment that talks to each other, and it’s estimated that by 2017 most people are going to have at least seven different types” of devices that need Internet connectivity.

“We have a real problem with what we’re going to do, especially with spectrum,” Mr. Latta said. “The FCC is going to be conducting a huge auction in the near future and that auction hopefully is going to free up more spectrum out there.”

That auction is expected to take place in 2015. …

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August 15, 2014

Congressman Fred Upton and FCC Commissioner meet with law enforcement in Kalamazoo

Congressman Fred Upton was in Kalamazoo Friday morning to talk with law enforcement officials from all over the region. Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says that he came to town with Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai to discuss what kind of progress has been made by law enforcement agencies in terms of updating their communications equipment and making it possible for all agencies to communicate with each other in an emergency.

"The number one recommendation from the Nine Eleven Commission way back when was that we get interoperability between all of our first responders, and to do that we had to create the spectrum so that they could have a band that they could communicate with. So, there's a lot of shifting. There are billions of dollars at stake."

Proceeds from a federal auction of certain communication bands in that spectrum will be used partly to help law enforcement nationwide update its communications systems. At the Friday meeting, FCC Commissioner Pai said that Congress has been working with the agency as law enforcement entities around the country aim for the goal of interoperability.

"The challenge for us at the FCC is how do we structure our public safety communications system in a way that meets the challenges of the 21st century," Pai said.

Pai said that the FCC has been pleased with the level of support it's getting from Congress on the matter. Law enforcement officials on hand said that achieving interoperability is a complicated matter, and they hope to continue getting support from Congress as the process continues.

Read the full article online here.