By a letter dated June 24, Congressmen G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, and Gene Green, D-Texas, led dozens of their colleagues in filing comments to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the pending AT&T/T-Mobile USA merger.
In total, 76 Democrats from the House of Representatives signed on to the letter, of which 20 members of the Congressional Black Caucus cosigned on the effort, including Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Alcee Hastings, Gregory Meeks, Sanford Bishop, William “Lacy” Clay Jr., Al Green, Chaka Fattah, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., Eddie Bernice Johnson, Donna M. Christensen, Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Corrine Brown, Cedric Richmond, Yvette Clarke, Frederica Wilson, Marcia Fudge, Karen Bass, David Scott, Terri Sewell and Danny K. Davis.
In describing the impetus behind filing supportive comments, Butterfield said that “this merger represents an opportunity to deliver a better wireless product that will benefit all, including those in rural areas. We are encouraging the FCC and the DOJ to consider a number of important factors during the review process, including the proposed increases in coverage to those living in rural and underserved areas.”
Butterfield represents the 1st district of North Carolina, comprising 23 counties, of which 97.5% is rural and could benefit tremendously from increased access to reliable and affordable broadband. Just over half of his district (50.9%) is African American.
Butterfield sees this merger as a real opportunity to promote job-creating opportunities for those most in need. He also recognizes AT&T’s commitment to diversity and to deploying broadband to rural communities as among his top reasons for supporting the merger.
Nationally, unemployment for African Americans is nearly double that of the general population. The situation is particularly tenuous for African Americans living in rural areas who lack access to the non-farm private sector jobs where the most growth is currently being had on the economic development front.
According to the members of congress supporting this deal, “As a part of their merger proposal, AT&T has committed to building a next-generation wireless broadband network that will cover 97 percent of Americans. The fact is, we live in an information age that requires high-speed broadband as part of our basic infrastructure. Without high-speed wireless broadband access, rural Americans and our rural economies will be left behind. The 76 Democratic signatories represent a large and diverse spectrum of the caucus; all united in our desire to make the President’s pledge of nationwide, next generation wireless broadband services a reality.”
The 76 members of congress made clear their support of President Barack Obama’s goal of reaching near ubiquitous deployment of wireless broadband over the next five years, saying that “those digital connections will drive investment and innovation in new technologies and services and move the American economy forward to ensure our nation’s continuing global competitiveness.”
They also emphasized “the potential for ubiquitous, wireless broadband throughout our nation [to] be a significant benefit for the millions of Americans that may not otherwise see those benefits, including our constituents living in rural and underserved communities.”
Keeping the benefits of mobile applications and services front of mind, the members were adamant in their support of next generation wireless broadband and pledged to help bring to fruition the president’s pledge of securing universal connectivity for America.