Late last month, 76 Democratic Congressional Representatives urged the FCC and the Department of Justice to give important consideration to the increased broadband wireless coverage that will be made possible by AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile.  More specifically, the letter recognized the significant benefits of expanded LTE broadband services to 55 million Americans that might not otherwise see 4G LTE deployments in their communities.

AT&T has made clear that the scale, spectrum, and other resources generated by the transaction will permit AT&T to deploy LTE – the premier next-generation wireless broadband technology – to more than 97% of the U.S. population.  That deployment in turn will create jobs, incent investment, help bridge the digital divide and help achieve the Administration’s broadband objectives for rural America, relying entirely on private capital and without the expenditure of government funds.

Free Press has long acknowledged that high-speed broadband Internet access has become a necessity for productivity and economic growth.  Free Press also acknowledges that more than one-third of Americans still lack access to a high speed service in their home and laments that “whole regions of the country are not being served by broadband providers.”  Yet, when confronted with AT&T’s commitment to deploy LTE – a faster and more spectrally efficient wireless broadband technology – to a significant portion of all Americans now under-served, Free Press glibly accuses us of misleading members of Congress and making “phony promises.”  In support of this, Free Press points to our ongoing efforts to expand our HSPA+ deployments – apparently concluding that HSPA+ is the same as LTE.

While it is true that HSPA+ enhances wireless network speeds, LTE is a major advancement for the mobile industry.  Unlike HSPA+, which is approaching the end of its development cycle, LTE development is at its infancy and will only improve.  And even in its launch phase, LTE offers downlink throughput speeds that are up to two times faster than HSPA+ with dual carriers.

LTE also has dramatically reduced latency, which will provide subscribers with a significantly better mobile broadband experience, particularly for delay-sensitive services such as VoIP and video applications.  AT&T expects that with the deployment of wide-scale LTE networks, real-time, streaming, interactive mobile video will become ubiquitous.  And as information and computing power are transferred to the “cloud,” mobile devices will become thinner, lighter, more energy efficient and dramatically more powerful.  Wireless connectivity will be embedded in new and innovative consumer, commercial and medical devices that will be monitored and reconfigured in real time to the personal needs of individual consumers and businesses.

In short, LTE promises to be transformational – offering dramatic performance and service improvements beyond those available on current UMTS networks and rural communities need and deserve access to these technologies as a path to personal and economic growth.

In the end, it is Free Press that is “dead wrong” in suggesting rural America doesn’t really need access to LTE.  LTE technologies are the best bet this country has to dramatically narrow the digital divide and the 76 representatives who sent the letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice were correct to recognize that bringing 21st century wireless infrastructure to rural and underserved communities is critical for our nation’s long-term economic growth and productivity.

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