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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.
They started with a roundtable discussion with owners of smaller telecommunications businesses in McClure, Ohio, about 30 miles southwest of Toledo.
From there, they traveled to Toledo, where they toured the Buckeye CableSystem facility on Angola Road.
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.”
He praised the companies that are taking steps to improve the situation.
“We often talk about universal service — the promise that all Americans will have access to communications services whether you live in an urban area or a rural area, and cable companies like Buckeye are doing their part to make that promise a reality.”
Buckeye CableSystem, Buckeye Telesystem, and The Blade are all owned by Block Communications Inc.
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.
“To have Congressman Latta and a commissioner of the FCC, Ajit Pai, come to Buckeye CableSystem to learn about the industries that we’re involved with is a high honor for everybody connected to the Buckeye companies,” said Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc. “I hope they found it useful.”
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