Washington—One day soon, the American Broadband Initiative could connect rural America to high-speed internet.
Access to reliable, high-speed internet is critical to the advancement of modern agriculture and the quality of life for millions of rural Americans. Almost all technological advances depend on connectivity, that will close the gap between America's rural and urban areas.
President Donald Trump’s American Broadband Initiative is providing critical broadband connections to rural areas. Megan Nelson, the economic analyst at the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the initiative focuses on improving the rural economy because access to broadband is not a luxury, but a vital necessity.
“The American Broadband Initiative is the administration’s plan to further deploy broadband infrastructure and bring E-connectivity to rural populations. They’re mainly focusing on improving quality of life, rural workforce, technology and economic development in this area,” said Nelson.
Funding for this massive project will come from the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission.
Internet companies will tap into two federal agencies to subsidize the costs of infrastructure buildout to rural areas according to Nelson, she says its the USDA's Rural Utilities Service and the Universal Serval Fund through FCC. The agencies manage the grant and loan programs, that will target the different areas of need.
Late last year, the Trump administration published the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, that revealed the major government initiatives for deploying broadband infrastructure and bringing e-connectivity to rural populations. The recommendations are centered around e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, technology, and economic development. The recommendations focus mainly on building existing programs and streamlining federal permitting processes and strengthening the impact of federal funding streams.
Still, there’s work to be done as 29 percent of farmers report having no internet connection at the farm.
“Access to reliable high-speed broadband is critical to modern agriculture practices and the quality of life for rural Americans. While the American Broadband Initiative is taking some great steps in the right direction, there are still 24 million Americans lacking adequate access to broadband,” said Nelson.
The primary issue facing broadband providers regarding permitting is that broadband installation can involve more than six different federal departments to make changes on federal lands. A key part of the initiative is for GSA to work with agencies like as USDA, DOI, Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to replace the common application form (SF-299) for all telecommunication permit requests.
The American Broadband Initiative has also created a one-stop-shop for federal permitting of broadband infrastructure at BroadbandUSA. For anything to happen further simplifications and improved workflows need to be deployed throughout the next two years with the end of March 2021 for full implementation.