Wednesday, July 20, 2016

U.S. does not just have a "rural broadband" problem; Bold federal initiative needed to address widespread infrastructure disparities

In these troubling times, senators unite to end America's big divide – rural v urban broadband • The Register: The US Senate has formally formed its first informal committee to push for better broadband in America's countryside. The bi-partisan Senate Broadband Caucus will be made up of five senators who represent states with large rural populations and will push for laws that help to expand high-speed internet service into those underserved markets. The caucus will initially comprise of Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Each comes from states where large tracts of uninhabited land make the installation of fiber networks financially unappealing to commercial providers.

This would be fine if disparate access to modern telecommunications infrastructure was solely a rural issue as electrical power distribution infrastructure was at the start of the 20th century when entire rural counties and regions were left off the grid.

The problem is it's not. Driven by cherry picking and redlining by legacy telephone and cable companies, access disparities tend to be far more granular, occurring in rural, suburban, exurban and even urban areas. Neighborhoods and clusters of premises may be served by landline internet infrastructure while others just a mile or two distant -- or even less -- are not.

That's not a "rural broadband" problem. It's a national crisis of deficient telecommunications infrastructure for the 21st century. The United States needs a bold federal initiative to ensure fiber optic connections to every American doorstep and institution and to replace legacy metallic infrastructure. And in the shortest possible time frame given the task should have been started a generation ago. I present the case and outline how it would work in my recent eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

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