Donald Trump’s promise during the campaign season to improve infrastructure in the United States has emboldened some politicians to stress that the country’s infrastructure challenges don’t exclusively revolve around dumpy major airports or crumbling roads and bridges. Broadband access, especially in rural areas, is a big issue and one that needs addressing much sooner than later if those communities are to have a fair shake at economic growth, some say.
For example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia recently wrote a letter to the president-elect underlining the U.S. rural broadband dilemma and encouraging the new administration to include broadband deployment as a core component of any new infrastructure proposals with particular focus on rural America. Her suggestions include reducing barriers to investment in infrastructure, streamlining the regulatory environment for wireless providers, encouraging public/private partnerships, and “ensuring accountability on behalf of the taxpayer for federally funded projects.”
There is also movement at the state level to champion rural communities’ access to high-speed data infrastructure. One of the latest ideas came via Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address this week in which he said he is creating an office dedicated to getting high-speed internet to all of his state by 2020.
Calling fiber “today’s power lines for farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses,” he observes that current rural internet service is a drain on the rural economy as well as a drag on education and healthcare. In other words, without broadband, businesses have limited growth potential, rural schools are at a disadvantage, and clinics cannot offer the same care that major metros can with their solid access to broadband.
Last month the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission declared that broadband access internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians, no matter where in the country they live, and that move had some broadband advocates suggesting a similar thing should happen in the United States.
“Canadians asked for universal internet access, support for rural communities, world-class speeds, unlimited data options, and minimum guarantees for the quality of their internet … There’s no reason why the United States can’t do the same,” OpenMedia Campaigns Director Josh Tabish comments. OpenMedia led a nearly 50,000-strong citizen movement for internet as a basic service in Canada.
Tabish says citizens in rural America have some of the same issues that Canadians do around broadband. “These challenges can be surmounted, but it will take real political will to do so. Does Donald Trump really want to see the United States fall behind its neighbor to the north? If not, it’s essential that he ensures the FCC continues to uphold net neutrality and stands up for rural Americans,” Tabish says.
Filed Under: Industry regulations