When it comes to removing Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment from U.S. broadband networks, a strategy of “rip and place” would cost well over $1 billion. Rural broadband carriers don’t have the budget for that, and they are concerned that the costs of a retrofit would delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks.
At least a half-dozen separate pieces of broadband legislation are working their way through Congress, and panelists assembled by the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband Coalition on Wednesday commented on the pros and cons of how these bills would deploy broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved areas of the country.
In my mind, the FCC betrayed rural communities when they adopted the 10/1 Mbps speed goal for CAF II. That told rural communities that they had to settle for second-rate broadband that was far slower than the rest of the country. From what I hear, most rural communities don’t even consider the CAF II upgrades as real broadband. Rural communities want fiber. They view anything slower than fiber as nothing more than a stepping-stone towards eventually getting fiber.
It has been more than 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which began a global financial crisis and an economic recession - a period of time that fundamentally changed the American economy. Although the data today shows that the country overall has seen economic improvement, the reality is that rural America hasn’t seen the same benefits as urban areas.
The Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined two new initiatives aimed at ensuring U.S. leadership in 5G and continuing efforts to close the digital divide. Pai announced his intent to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which he indicated would inject $20.4 billion into high-speed broadband networks in rural American over the next decade.
The Trump administration is announcing two major initiatives aimed at speeding the deployment of next-generation wireless networks -- a major new 5G spectrum auction and a $20.4 billion fund for building out broadband in rural areas.
Representatives Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., announced the introduction of H.R. 1328: the ACCESS BROADBAND Act today, bipartisan legislation that would expand broadband access in underserved areas and create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources.
There is exists a gaping digital divide between Rural America and the rest of the country, in which 146 million people (45 percent of the population) do not have access to a low-price plan for residential broadband. That is according to research released last week by BroadbandNow, which also found a slightly positive correlation between income and low-priced broadband.
On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Recode’s Peter Kafka spoke with Harvard Law School professor Susan Crawford about her new book, Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution--And Why America Might Miss It. On the podcast, Crawford explained why nationwide access to high-speed fiber internet -- already standard in parts of Asia and Europe -- is important for everything from the future of work to the successful deployment of 5G wireless networks. She also talked about why Google’s ambitious attempt to compete with the telecom giants, Google Fiber, is all but dead.
Action toward improving the availability and speed of broadband in rural areas is emerging as an early theme in 2019, continuing activity from 2018. Oregon, Washington and the USDA all announced new initiatives last month. In mid-December, the USDA announced the availability of $600 million in grants and loans to support improvement of broadband accessibility across rural America.