FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel reflects on hard truths of Covid-19


JESSICA ROSENWORCEL


Federal Communications Commission member

INTERVIEW: Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured) argued the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic had been galvanising for decision makers because it highlighted the scale of the digital divide even a developed nation like the US still faced.

The Commissioner noted a push to work and school from home had “exposed a really hard truth in the US”, demonstrating the nation’s connectivity gap “is very real and very big”. The pandemic “brought broadband from nice to have, to need to have”, with access becoming essential to “maintain some semblance of modern life”.

Rosenworcel explained deployment remained a challenge in delivering connectivity, citing difficulties around the business case and building networks in rural areas. But she also highlighted affordability as a barrier: “we need to make sure that every household who wants access to broadband can afford it” and enjoy the “full benefits of the digital age”.

She believes the pandemic had roused policy makers, because it highlighted that for “your community to have a fair shot in the digital age, you’re going to need everybody to subscribe to broadband”.

Rosenworcel believes the US should target 100 per cent connectivity, but conceded the FCC must take the lead by determining where coverage gaps are “at a level of granular detail that regulators have not done before”. Once this information is available, “we’ve got to work together with our industry to identify how we’re going to serve everyone”.