Broadband is essential 21st century infrastructure, and connecting our rural communities must be a federal priority. This includes incorporating broadband into any infrastructure package.
Our federal broadband programs can be updated in order to better connect rural America. We need to broaden the impact of federal programs by:
Broadening eligible service areas. Many existing federal grant and loan programs are only available to very narrowly defined sections of the country. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new ReConnect program is only available to communities in which 10% or less of the population has access to internet speeds of 10/1 Mbps. According to the FCC, 96.25% of the country is already served by 10/1 fixed or terrestrial service. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the FCC’s data, which is used to determine eligibility, over-reports speeds and coverage of service. That means many communities that lack quality access are ineligible for assistance.
Creating carve-outs for areas served by a provider that has received federal funds in the past. Communities that are served by satellite providers that are receiving Connect America Fund money are ineligible for some other federal programs, such as ReConnect. Excluding communities served by satellite from participating in federal programs is counterintuitive to the goal of adequate service to everyone.
We also need to support the creative connectivity solutions that are helping to bring broadband to rural America. Limiting the avenues a municipality may take – be it municipal broadband, a cooperative network, or working with an incumbent ISP – only keeps Americans unconnected.
→ Support the inclusion of broadband in any infrastructure package
→ Broaden the impact of federal broadband programs
→ Support the creative community solutions that are helping to connect rural America
→ Reject policies and legislation that create barriers for municipal broadband networks and other community solutions (e.g. by restricting funding programs)