Code & Conduit Podcast: Talking Tech with Morgan Reed of ACT The App Association

App Association

If there’s one issue virtually everyone in federal government seems to agree upon, it’s that rural broadband in the U.S. is slow and spotty.

Moving ahead on rural broadband infrastructure is critical not just for consumers, but the tech industry, Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT | The App Association, a trade group which represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies and is sponsored by companies like Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., told Bloomberg BNA in a Code & Conduit podcast.

Reed said his organization supports several rural broadband initiatives at the Federal Communications Commission, which has named August ‘Rural Broadband Month.’ Almost 40 percent of rural Americans, or 23 million people, lack broadband access of speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, according to a 2016 report from the FCC.

This will also impact tech developers, Reed said.

“The reality of the app ecosystem is that the app that you think comes from a company in the Valley or New York was possibly built by three guys in South Dakota working with a graphic designer out of Virginia and all tied together by a network engineer out of Texas,” Reed said.

The App Association’s data shows that 83 percent of the top apps are built outside of Silicon Valley. Reed pointed to the millions of app users in rural parts of the country that may have trouble buying or using apps because of poor connection.

But not everyone agrees how to best prepare the regulatory landscape to speed up the rollout of rural broadband infrastructure. A proposal from the FCC introduced this spring would preempt local and state regulatory barriers that hinder nationwide availability of wireless connectivity and 5G. This framework would favor the telecom industry’s ability to quickly build out broadband infrastructure, like small cell radio equipment used in 5G deployment, over city and state officials who want more control over where this equipment can be mounted in their jurisdictions.
Reed said it's critical to streamline this local, state and federal approval process for company cell sites.

“Right now, that tower you see or the building with the signal on top of it – there are enormous numbers of hoops that have to be jumped through in order to put that on top of a building,” Reed said

Reed also said his organization supported a proposal to use television white spaces for broadband deployment, a plan also recently touted by Microsoft Corp.

But the plan – which would use the same spectrum as television channels to deliver internet connection to rural areas – has its critics. The National Association of Broadcasters has voiced concerns the signal would interfere with existing stations and would unfairly favor companies, like Microsoft, who haven’t purchased spectrum through the FCC.

Still, Reed said white spaces offer a solution to deliver broadband to remote areas without the need for miles of expensive fiber or an array of small cells.

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