Sens. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) and Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), the respective new chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said today the their priorities for the 116th Congress include expanding rural broadband services and addressing the privacy of consumer data.
During a roughly 20-minute executive session this morning, the committee’s first meeting in the 116th Congress, the panel approved its rules and subcommittee structure. Sens. Wicker and Cantwell also discussed their priorities.
Mr. Wicker said the committee “accomplished a great deal last Congress, and I look forward to similar successes this Congress.”
“The broadband connectivity is the digital engine driving investment, innovation, and productivity in virtually every economic sector of the United States,” he said. “Although we have made significant progress on wireline, wireless, and satellite broadband deployments over the years, more needs to be done to close the digital divide, particularly in rural America. This process should start with collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists and where it does not, both in my state of Mississippi and around the country. Data is critical to delivering broadband to rural communities that lack service.”
The senator also said the committee will continue to work to ensure the U.S. leads the world in 5G deployment.
“To that end, modernizing outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary cost to broadband infrastructure deployment and making more spectrum available for commercial use will be critical to our nation’s success developing a reliable, resilient, and secure 5G network,” he said.
“Maintaining consumer trust and confidence in this [Internet] marketplace is critical to preserving a prosperous and thriving digital economy in the United States,” he also said. “A priority of this committee will be to protect the privacy of consumers’ data in a way that promotes industry transparency, consumer choice, and innovation.”
Sen. Wicker also said the panel will work to keep the skies safe while aiding U.S. leadership in space.
“These efforts will include oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration and the safe integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace,” he said. “They will also, I hope, include a commercial space bill and a National Aeronautics and Space Administration reauthorization.”
“This is no means a complete list,” said the senator, who also listed non-telecom issues. “There are many other high priorities the committee will consider.”
Sen. Cantwell, who said the panel has “a long record of working together in a bipartisan fashion,” emphasized the need to focus on “investing in infrastructure, strengthening cybersecurity, expanding rural broadband, [and] boosting commercial space.” She also concurred in the importance of “protecting consumer privacy and data.”
Sen. Wicker said the committee rules adopted today are the same as those used during the 115th Congress, although he said the application of procedures on when senators are recognized to question witnesses will be “stricter.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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