Put broadband first for rural Americans

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[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission estimated in 2017 that to deploy high-speed broadband to 98 percent of American homes, it would cost $40 billion. For 100 percent, the cost doubles. Which is why greater broadband infrastructure funding — both public and private — is urgently needed in remote areas, where the cost of connectivity infrastructure remains extreme. By adopting a “broadband first,” approach, the Trump Administration’s new report is encouraging — from easing federal permitting in remote communities to including broadband in its definition of infrastructure in an August 2017 executive order.

Beyond this, we need to continue to move forward with bipartisan congressional action to ensure sustainable and direct federal funding set asides to support rural broadband deployment, to reduce regulatory barriers, and to incentivize more private investment. Encouraging the smart deployment of existing and new federal funds will also be an essential part of any permanent solution.

Ultimately, the answer to the rural connectivity equation won’t be red or blue, it will be finding the right policy framework to ensure the 1’s and 0’s that comprise our nation’s digital infrastructure can keep pace with consumer demand. All Americans should be inspired that our government, alongside our nation’s broadband innovators, is finding new pathways to deliver on the promise that broadband can bring to rural communities.

[Jonathan Spalter is president and CEO of USTelecom, a broadband association.]

Put broadband first for rural Americans