President Donald Trump announced that rural broadband expansion will be included in his $1 trillion infrastructure package, which Trump said will be released “very shortly.”
The increased funding for rural broadband expansion is needed. According to FCC data, only 55 percent of rural residents have access to downloads faster than 25 megabits per second, compared to 94 percent in urban areas. In recent years farm lobbies have expressed concerns that slow Internet speeds are holding back economic development in rural areas. However, Trump has yet to secure strong support from Congress for his forthcoming package and has released view concrete details.
“Far too many families and businesses in rural communities do not have access to adequate broadband, limiting their opportunities in the digital age,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “Far too many families and businesses in rural communities do not have access to adequate broadband, limiting their opportunities in the digital age. Closing the digital divide needs to be a national priority, and the President’s decision to include rural broadband in his infrastructure plan holds great promise for creating more jobs and prosperity in our nation’s rural areas.”
While private funding has largely supported broadband expansion in urban areas, private investors have found rural areas to be far less profitable. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters that this means a greater Federal role in expanding rural broadband is appropriate.
“We think we ought to have the same push to have broadband connectivity all over the country because in the 21st century it is just as important as a telephone, water, sewer, roads,” Perdue said aboard Air Force One en route to Trump’s speech at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It has become an infrastructure of necessity.”
While Trump has promised to support rural broadband expansion, actual inclusion of new resources or programs depends on whether Trump’s overall infrastructure package is approved by Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed reservations over the last couple of months. Chief among the concerns is that the $1 trillion package proposed by Trump includes only $200 billion in government spending. The remainder of the package is funded by unnamed private investors, incentivized by loans and grants.