Democrats torch President Trump failures on rural digital divide

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Democrats are offering President Donald Trump's rural supporters a reason to turn against him in 2020 — his failure to bring them the high-speed internet he promised. Several presidential candidates including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) have rolled out proposals for tens of billions in new federal dollars to bring fast broadband service to rural America, with Sen Warren’s $85 billion plan leading the spending pack. They call broadband yet another example of President Trump letting down people who helped send him to the White House in 2016, including people in the same farm-heavy states suffering from the president’s trade wars. President Trump’s challengers also say the slow internet speeds that prevail in much of the nation are a drag on the economy and a threat to US competitiveness. “I see that the country of Iceland has all hooked up, and we’re not,” said Democratic hopeful Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) when asked about President Trump’s record. Sen Klobuchar pledges to connect all US households to broadband by 2022.

President Donald Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to deliver broadband to rural Americans as part of a trillion-dollar national infrastructure package. Leaders of his 2020 reelection campaign also cited the need for rural connectivity earlier in 2019 as they tried to pitch the Trump administration on a plan for a government intervention to spur along super-fast 5G wireless connectivity. But President Trump’s big infrastructure plan went nowhere in Congress, and the president has disavowed the idea of federal meddling in 5G, preferring to let the private sector take the lead. Meanwhile, rural areas continue to heavily lag cities in internet availability and speeds. Shirley Bloomfield, who represents more than 800 rural telecommunications providers as chief of the trade group NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, said that she came away “disappointed” after meetings with Trump officials early in the administration failed to result in muscular rural broadband policies or funding. "You don’t have that complete coordination, which would have really created a national strategy for how we’re going to tackle broadband connectivity for all Americans," she said. "I think people got distracted by a lot of other topics and ... felt politically kind of backed into their corners, and I think the window closed." But, Bloomfield added, “There’s always 2021, you know.” But, unless Democrats sweep the White House and both houses of Congress in 2020, rural broadband funding will likely require bipartisan wrangling. 

Democrats torch Trump failures on rural digital divide