A new year brings new opportunities to drive broadband investment in growth.

By: Donna Epps

To wrap-up our Tech Trends 2017 series, Donna Epps of Verizon's public policy team shares her thoughts about what government leaders and policy stakeholders can do to ensure continuing investment in the broadband networks that will support tech trends like VR, AI, IoT and smart cities in 2017.

As 2016 comes to a close, this is a time of both reflection and looking ahead. At Verizon, we could not be prouder of the work our dedicated teams have accomplished over the past 12 months to improve our customers’ experience. From introducing new services like LTE Advanced on our next gen network, to providing more mobile content to our customers with go90, to expanding Verizon’s position in exciting new technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things, telematics and smart communities; it’s been an exciting year.

Throughout it all, we’ve remained committed to ensuring that our networks are the most advanced in the industry. It’s a commitment we intend to keep in 2017 – a year rife with opportunities both in Washington and in communities across the country.


Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman appeared on CSPAN's
"The Communicators" December 6, 2016.

Boosting broadband infrastructure, driving economic growth

As we take stock of where we are, we’ve identified several areas of focus for policymakers in the coming year. First and foremost, we need to further expand the United States’ broadband infrastructure – the foundation of the digital world. Verizon is investing in America building advanced networks that power our nation’s information infrastructure, including $17.8 billion in capital spending last year, and we remain committed to working with policymakers to keep Americans working to strengthen these vital communications systems. “We need to see fiber as one of the fundamental aspects of infrastructure for economic growth,” Craig Silliman, general counsel for Verizon, explained during a recent interview with C-SPAN’s Communicators series. He added that lawmakers should actively encourage broadband investment and innovation across all platforms because they are “a fundamental part of all the other economic growth components.” As policymakers debate how to improve the nation’s infrastructure, they should include incentives to spur broadband investment in any new infrastructure plan.

Second, policymakers at the state and local level will also play an important role in the coming year. Local leaders can help incent investment in broadband infrastructure – like in Boston, where Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced a partnership with Verizon this year to replace the city’s copper-based infrastructure with a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network. FiOS became available to order in the first Boston neighborhoods earlier this month, less than eight months since the mayor’s announcement this past spring. Across the country, cities and towns will have opportunities to attract similar projects, all aimed at improving speeds, connectivity and reliability for their communities.

Communications laws are out-of-date. Congress can fix that.

Finally, the next Congress and incoming Administration have an opportunity to modernize the nation’s antiquated communications laws in ways that will better protect consumers, foster innovation and encourage market competition across the Internet ecosystem. A lot has changed since the Telecommunication Act was updated last in 1996. Services most Americans take for granted today did not even exist then, and large portions of the law pertain to services that no longer exist or have become completely irrelevant such as competition for long-distance phone service. Today’s rigid laws and regulations built around legacy services must give way to new, more flexible approaches that are more aligned to the realities of the converged digital marketplace. Rather than relying on outdated technology-specific regulations, we need a modernized legal framework with broad parameters that is tailored to promote competition and protect consumers in today’s ever-changing environment.

Over the past quarter-century, telecommunications industries have evolved in ways few could ever have imagined. Verizon is proud to have been a leader in many of these developments, and we know that work is never done. As 2016 draws to a close, we take a lot of satisfaction in our accomplishments to improve our customers’ experiences, and we look forward to building on those successes as we continue to innovate in the year ahead.

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About the author(s): 

Donna Epps directs Verizon’s domestic public policy team, as well as relationships with our external partners. Prior to her current position, Ms. Epps worked in Verizon’s Federal Regulatory Affairs group where she developed and advocated Verizon’s federal regulatory policy positions on key issues facing the communications industry, with an emphasis on issues related to competition, economic regulation, and consumer protection.