Broadband has kept America humming over the last 15 months. When so much of American life went exclusively online last year, small, rural broadband providers went above and beyond to keep their communities connected and connect more people. But we still have much more work to do both in deploying networks and delivering robust and affordable services for millions of Americans, and this is where public policy can play a really important role in helping build and sustain broadband in rural markets.
As Congress considers various infrastructure proposals, it is important to keep in mind that broadband is truly the 21st-century superhighway. We should invest in broadband infrastructure the same way we invest in traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges. I recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee on infrastructure funding, where I was the only witness representing the broadband industry. I was struck by the similarities between traditional transportation policy and broadband. When we invest in roads and bridges, we build roads that are meant to last, so we’re not worried about paving over potholes two years in. Similarly, we should invest in broadband technology meant to last.
Specifically, any broadband infrastructure plan needs to aim to build and maintain lasting networks using future-proof technology such as fiber, coordinate among existing and new federal broadband programs, include clear service standards for providers to participate, leverage the expertise and experience of community-based providers and address barriers to broadband deployment such as permitting and supply chain delays.
In addition, when considering who should get the funding to expand broadband services, we must consider the providers who are already on the ground getting the job done for rural Americans. NTCA’s members are local providers who are quite literally serving their neighbors. We should turn to those who are already providing service to rural Americans to connect those who still need service.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. Let’s aim high and build a digital bridge that lasts.
– Shirley Bloomfield, Chief Executive Officer, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 850 independent telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America.