To the Editor:
Reliable internet connectivity, including high-speed 5G-and-beyond wireless networks, gives students access to digital resources for their academic success, and also prepares them for the nation’s workforce and evolving economy.
During the pandemic, digital connectivity and online learning platforms were essential to students, instructors, academic advisors, and other professionals. However, a policy standoff in our nation’s capital directly impacts access to these networks and threatens the future of digital innovation.
Earlier this year, Congress allowed the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to manage and allocate licensed spectrum, the radio waves crucial for wireless communications, to expire. Allowing the FCC’s ability to allocate new spectrum to expire is delaying the assignment of future spectrum licenses to wireless carriers.
This is directly tied to the limited availability or congestion of wireless services, affecting students’ ability to access reliable and high-quality mobile data, voice calls, and internet connectivity essential to their success in degree programs.
While all consumers stand to lose from this, it will specifically impact students preparing to participate in the digital economy. Instead of allowing this FCC expiration to derail our wireless experience, Congress can work collaboratively and restore the FCC’s authority.
In addition to the FCC’s reauthorization, legislators should establish a channel of future spectrum bands as digital innovations in educational and other technologies create new networks of connectivity, improve data speeds, lower latency, and expand network capacity.
Institutions of higher learning are developing new programs to meet emerging workforce challenges. These programs and training courses are more flexible and affordable, allowing students to meet the growing demands and changing trends in professional fields. Key to that transition is the proliferation of online platforms featuring virtual classrooms and hubs for resources and learning materials.
According to a recent World Economic Forum survey, employers estimate that 44 percent of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. With the rise of new technologies and further integration of the digital economy, it is absolutely vital for our workforce to evolve and adapt to these challenges.
The flexibility these digital tools offer has also been transformative to non-traditional students looking to upskill or re-skill while continuing to work and meet other obligations. By eliminating the need for physical attendance, this overhaul of the traditional classroom setting reduces time and logistic constraints that previously deterred students from continuing their education.
Regardless of geographical location, students are able to access new skills and knowledge, enabling them to adapt to the shifting demands of the contemporary workforce.
Expanding access to internet connectivity is an important step toward closing the digital divide that all too often leaves folks in rural areas and underserved communities behind. I urge Congress to give the FCC the authority to allocate new spectrum and grant future spectrum licenses to benefit all students and residents across the Empire State.
University at Albany