Rural communities across the country still lag behind urban centers when it comes to access to broadband infrastructure. Bringing high speed internet to areas without it can have immense benefits, both for local economies and for the lives of residents. As Washington moves closer to bringing President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan to fruition, rural broadband funding deserves further consideration.
The Brookings Institution recently held an event on this very topic, focusing on how greater broadband infrastructure can improve the lives of Americans across the country. It’s become quite common for families in rural communities to spend their evenings in library parking lots, or McDonald’s, just so they can gain access to wireless internet – so the children are able to complete their homework. This sort of issue was discussed in depth by the Brookings panel, noting that the time is perfect to make progress; Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the keynote speaker, reminded the crowd that President Trump is a builder, who understands how beneficial projects like this can be.
This is not only an issue for the education of our youth, it’s also an employment problem. As jobs are continually replaced with technological advances, job retraining programs are becoming more common. However, in rural communities where access to high speed internet is limited, it can be extremely burdensome to complete these programs. In some cases, it can take 4 hours to stream a single, 45-minute lecture. Jobs training was another key point during the event, with a focus on how broadband access helps to create jobs, through construction and through greater access to retraining programs.
It’s exciting to see the progress already made towards improving American infrastructure. Just a year ago this discussion was condensed to roads and bridges, and not much else. The GAIN coalition is excited to see the conversation around infrastructure grow both more serious and much wider. Expanding rural access to broadband is a concrete action that can help thousands of Americans improve their lives, and their futures.