Democratic congressional leaders said this week they’d reached an agreement with President Donald Trump to move forward with a "big and bold” $2 trillion infrastructure deal to focus on roads, bridges, highways, water, the power grid and broadband internet expansion. “We are pleased the President agreed to include a major investment in expanding broadband to rural, urban and underserved areas to deliver broadband’s benefits for education, health care and commerce,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
We’re encouraged by the inclusion of broadband as “infrastructure” because in our increasingly digital world, it is also improved connectivity and ultra-high bandwidth provided by all-fiber networks that will drive innovation, productivity and our economy. But we’re not surprised. This is an idea with bipartisan support at the local, state and federal level.
In the US, many rural Americans rely on small to midsize broadband providers, such as Jackson Energy and C-Spire, to deploy all-fiber networks to provide high-speed connectivity. While fiber optic broadband pays for itself in terms of the educational and economic opportunities it can bring to a community, upfront infrastructure costs can be high, which can make the private sector hesitant to invest in areas with low densities. That’s where the government can step in and provide incentives to bridge the funding gap.
But beyond funding for infrastructure, streamlining and speeding up the permitting process for fiber deployment can help these companies serve their communities faster and at a lower cost. In the past, the President and members from both parties have supported common-sense measures to facilitate broadband infrastructure buildout. We encourage them to continue to do so.
Infrastructure means much more than building roads; it also means building the physical infrastructure to support our digital roads — from 5G wireless small cells to fiber broadband networks. All Americans deserve access to all-fiber broadband networks that will connect them to educational and economic opportunities to succeed in our digital world.
Thankfully, Republican and Democratic members of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus acknowledge the importance of investing in broadband infrastructure. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) has opined that, “expanding rural broadband is good for the heartland of America,” while Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) stated, “broadband is a critical force for creating jobs, leveling the playing field, and increasing opportunity.”
The Fiber Broadband Association commends President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) for taking the first steps together on infrastructure. Expanding all-fiber broadband deployment to rural Americans will require collaboration not only between Democrats and Republicans, but also between government and the private sector. We look forward to working with the 116th Congress and the private sector to make rural broadband expansion a priority and a reality.