Lending

Several different actions required to expand rural broadband

“There are innovative ways to do this,” Reynolds said.

Shakouri said one of the reasons rural broadband expansion has been slow to occur is due to problems with accurately mapping broadband in rural areas.

He showed the FCC mapping for the state of Georgia, as well as a map completed by local authorities. According to state officials, federal cards have missed half of all addresses without broadband service.

The accuracy of mapping needs to be improved before broadband internet can be extended, he said.

Another factor hampering the expansion of rural broadband in more remote areas is the cost of some of these technologies.

Reynolds said a great example is SpaceX Starlink, which uses satellite technology to receive high-speed internet. While he appreciates Elon Musk’s efforts, this technology is more expensive for rural residents than service to their urban counterparts and more people on the system will only slow down the entire system, he said. declared.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

Josh Seidemann, vice president of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, said partnerships will continue to be important in pushing broadband to underserved rural areas (https://www.dtnpf.com/…). It would be a combination of government and private companies to expand broadband internet.

The USDA has the ReConnect loan and grant program. This government program provides loans and grants to local telecommunications companies for the costs of providing broadband services in rural areas.

In the first round of the ReConnect program, USDA invested $ 698 million to bring broadband connectivity to rural areas in 33 states (https://www.rd.usda.gov/…). A second round of the ReConnect program was announced by the USDA in April 2020.

The FCC on Thursday announced a new program to provide affordable internet service during the pandemic (https://docs.fcc.gov/…). The Broadband Emergency Benefit Program is a $ 3.2 billion federal initiative to provide eligible households with discounts on their Internet service bill and the ability to receive a discount on a computer or tablet .

“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Jessica Rosenworcel, interim president of the FCC, said in a press release. “It will help those who sit in cars in parking lots just pick up a Wi-Fi signal to connect to work. It will help those who linger outside the library with a laptop just to get a signal. wireless for distance learning. ”

Private capital will also be needed to invest in rural broadband, Seidemann said.

Research has shown that private investment in rural broadband can have an economic impact of $ 21 billion on the economy and can be felt in both rural and urban areas, he said. Construction jobs will need to be created to build the broadband structures, as well as jobs to maintain these facilities after construction.

LARGE BAND NECESSARY IN PANDEMIC

Seidemann said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to have rural broadband. The way people worked, the way children learned and access to health care were all revamped by the pandemic.

Fifty-five million students have been affected by school closings, with 49.5 million American homes having someone 18 years of age or younger. In addition, there are 41 million households in the United States that have two or more children, and 15 to 17 million households have multiple broadband users.

Seidemann said the use of telemedicine has increased during the pandemic. In April 2020, 50% of doctors were using this method to treat patients, while in April 2018, the number was only 18%, he said.

With 38 million Americans living in rural areas, this switch to telemedicine had a huge effect on them, especially if they didn’t have access to rural broadband.

There are several economic benefits for rural residents to be able to use telemedicine, according to Seidemann. These include: reducing fuel costs, fewer lost wages and retaining local businesses such as pharmacies.

A recent NTCA study showed that rural medical facilities that used telemedicine save $ 5,700 per facility per year in fuel costs. Healthcare facilities saved $ 3,400 per facility per year in wages and nearly $ 21,000 was saved per facility each year in medical costs, he said.

Seidemann said there was an economic benefit to other local rural businesses as well.

For local labs, revenues increased from $ 9,000 to $ 39,000 per year. Small town pharmacies saw their revenues increase from $ 2,300 to $ 6,200 per year as more businesses stayed local, he said.

Russ Quinn can be contacted at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

Comment here

placeholder="Your Comment">