Rural Americans would greatly benefit from Open Internet rules and more investment

NOTE: This article complements others we’ve recently posted on U.S. carriers move to broadband fixed wireless access for rural and under-served geographical areas.

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In many rural communities, where available broadband speed and capacity barely surpass old-fashioned dial-up connections, residents sacrifice not only their online pastimes but also chances at a better living.  Counties without modern internet connections can’t attract new firms, and their isolation discourages the enterprises they have: ranchers who want to buy and sell cattle in online auctions or farmers who could use the internet to monitor crops. Reliance on broadband includes any business that uses high-speed data transmission, spanning banks to insurance firms to factories.

Rural counties with more households connected to broadband had higher incomes and lower unemployment than those with fewer, according to a 2015 study by university researchers in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas who compared rural counties before and after getting high-speed internet service.

“Having access to broadband is simply keeping up,” said Sharon Strover, a University of Texas professor who studies rural communication. “Not having it means sinking.”

Ensuring access to an open, thriving online ecosystem through modern and even-handed internet rules is critical for every American, but much more so for the 60 million rural Americans who rely on the internet to connect them to a rapidly evolving global economy. Studies show that as rural communities adopt and use broadband services, incomes go up and unemployment falls. Broadband providers support protections that ensure consumers and innovators alike don’t have to worry about blocked websites or throttled service. Rural areas need more investment, not less. And modern Open Internet rules will encourage this needed progress.

Full Story:  ustelecom.org

Sidebar – Fast Internet Service:

About 39% of the U.S. rural population, or 23 million people, lack access to broadband internet service—defined as “fast” by the Federal Communications Commission—compared with 4% of the urban residents.

Fast Internet service, according to the FCC, means a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second, a measure of bandwidth known as Mbps. That speed can support email, web surfing, video streaming and graphics for more than one device at once. It is faster than old dial-up connections—typically, less than 1 Mbps—but slower than the 100 Mbps service common in cities.

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A recent Forbes article titled “Don’t Forget Rural America…..” by Richard Boucher stated:

In announcing the “Restoring Internet Freedom” rulemaking, the FCC stated that “[o]ur actions today continue our critical work to promote broadband deployment to rural consumers and infrastructure investment throughout our nation, to brighten the future of innovation both within networks and at their edge, and to close the digital divide.”  This past July, the Commission declared August to be “Rural Broadband Month” at the FCC.

Two years following the 2015 reclassification of broadband as a common carrier telecommunications service, it’s clear that broadband investment has declined in rural America. Representatives of internet service providers (ISPs) from states like Arkansas, Washington, Kentucky, and Nebraska have all offered evidence detailing how regulatory uncertainty arising from the “Title II” decision has retarded and, in many situations, stopped investment in their regions.

The formula for bringing high-speed internet connectivity to everyone in rural America is multi-faceted. It requires a combination of wired and wireless deployments, and government – through the FCC’s Universal Service programs and loans and grants from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture – all have a role to play. But indispensable to success is the creation of a regulatory framework that incentivizes private capital to deploy broadband everywhere, including rural America. As long as the regulatory uncertainty of Title II remains, rural America to a large extent will be cut off from essential private broadband deployment funding and, as a result, fall even further behind.

The discussion, as well as a fair amount of heated rhetoric, are sure to continue over the next few weeks regarding the proper classification for broadband. Meanwhile, don’t forget rural America. The best way to ensure that all corners of the country get the connectivity they need is for the FCC to restore the classification of broadband as an information service. Thereafter, Congress should enact legislation that codifies open internet rules and at long last puts to rest a debate that has raged for more than a decade.

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Another approach to delivering rural broadband are co-ops like this one:

Tennessee Electrical Co-Ops Eager to Bridge Rural Broadband Gap

Other References:

AT&T’s Rural Broadband Expansion Continues: 9 More States Added

 

CenturyLink asks FCC to approve 3.4 GHz Fixed Wireless Test

https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/9/26/16367798/rural-broadband-fast-internet-fcc-proposal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/rural-america-is-stranded-in-the-dial-up-age-1497535841

 

 

One thought on “Rural Americans would greatly benefit from Open Internet rules and more investment

  1. Broadband in US Varies Across Rural Areas 10/18/2017
    While broadband is widely deployed across the United States, an analysis of Federal Communications Commission data by USTelecom / CensusNBM found that rural broadband availability varies across rural areas in terms of deployment, speeds and competition. While there are gaps in rural broadband, there is no single “rural broadband gap.” Rather, availability lags in targeted rural areas, either where broadband is not yet available due to challenging geography or economics inhibit frequent upgrades to existing networks.
    https://www.ustelecom.org/blog/gaps-remain-broadband-availability-rural-vs-non-rural-areas

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