In infrastructure plan, a big opening for rural broadband

With the Trump Administration dangling the prospect of a $1 trillion infrastructure program, now is the time to consider whether a new approach might more effectively address the rural broadband problem.

As a starting point, Congress should consider setting aside some portion of a new infrastructure fund, say $20 billion, for a one-time rural broadband acceleration fund that is expressly designed to make the Federal Communications Commission’s universal service program more efficient. Under this option, a rural area currently without a network capable of meeting the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps benchmark would be eligible for funding. The FCC would set an opening per-location amount for how much it would be willing to pay a carrier in one-time support to deploy a next generation network providing enough bandwidth to meet the upper bounds of future expected demand (for example, a symmetric 100 Mbps) within a set time frame. An express condition of the support would be that the FCC will not provide any ongoing funding in the future. If companies recognized this is their best chance to finance a “future-proof” solution, the aggregate of funds sought by the carriers would likely be substantially in excess of the available targeted fund. If this is the case, then the FCC would run a reverse auction, with firms bidding to receive a lower per-location amount in each round until the amount reached the available targeted fund.


In infrastructure plan, a big opening for rural broadband