FCC Chairman Announces $500 Million Rural Broadband Investment

According to reports from 2016, more than a third of America’s rural citizens don’t have access to broadband internet. This puts communities at a stark disadvantage, reducing businesses’ ability to access greater markets through online portals, and restricting the education of our youth. The internet is a tremendous tool, and it’s vitally important that every American has high speed access to it.

The GAIN coalition has previously expressed our support for expanding rural access to broadband internet, and we’re thrilled to see the FCC take strong action to do exactly that.

“We need more deployment in sparsely populated rural areas if we’re going to extend digital opportunity to all Americans,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “But I’ve heard from community leaders, Congress and carriers that insufficient, unpredictable funding has kept them from reaching this goal. With the $500 million in new funding provided by this order, we’ll boost broadband deployment in rural America and put our high-cost system on a more efficient path, helping to ensure that every American can benefit from the digital revolution.”

This, in tandem with the great efforts already being made by the private sector, propel us down the path towards universal access to high speed internet across the country. The GAIN coalition is excited for these projects to move forward, and we’re glad to see such a strong commitment across the board to improving our nation’s infrastructure.

Congressional Caucus Releases Report On Future Infrastructure Plan

Earlier this week, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released a report, put together by their Infrastructure Working Group, laying out in detail suggestions for future infrastructure policies. This report comes as talk in Washington is heating up around a major infrastructure bill, which the White House is expected to unveil later this month.

“Unfortunately, due to years of underinvestment and deferred maintenance, America is no longer keeping pace and continues to fall behind other countries,” the report says. “By some estimates, the funding gap may be as high as $2 trillion by 2025 across all sectors of American infrastructure.”

The report makes a number of suggestions for ensuring that all areas of the United States are able to receive the funding that they need in order to repair and improve their infrastructure. One such suggestion is “creating ‘a rural liaison’ for various federal agencies to help those areas seek funding,” which would greatly improve the chances of our overlooked rural communities improving their infrastructure, or expanding access to high speed internet.

The suggestions from the Problem Solvers Caucus lay out some important ideas and policies for any potential infrastructure bill that makes its way through Congress, and the report serves as an example of the continued and consistent progress that lawmakers in Washington are making towards overhauling and improving our crumbling infrastructure.

White House Preparing To Roll Out Infrastructure Plan

In 2017, America’s infrastructure received a poor grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers: a D+. So many aspects of our infrastructure stand derelict and in disarray, neglected for far too long. In 2018, however, signs have begun to point towards a pivot to repairs and improvements. The White House continues to put the finishing touches on its massive infrastructure bill, and it’s expected to be unveiled later this month.

The plan, which will call for $1 trillion in important funding for our nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and more, is exactly the commitment that our infrastructure needs. The plan will pair $200 billion in federal funding with additional funding mechanisms used by individual states, eventually combining state, federal, and private dollars into the necessary funds.

“The president’s infrastructure vision is very clear and is based around two main goals: leveraging federal funds as efficiently as possible in order to generate over $1 trillion in infrastructure investment and expediting the burdensome and lengthy permitting process,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters.

The GAIN coalition is ready to seize this once in a generation opportunity, and to see our crumbling infrastructure across the country be rebuilt and upgraded. Modern and efficient infrastructure is vital to the success of our economy, and the quality of life of our citizens. We’re excited to see President Trump’s infrastructure bill, and we’re ready to make improvements from coast to coast.

Industry Leaders Come Together For Rural Broadband

Without access to high speed, reliable internet, communities all across America are unable to keep up in today’s fast paced world. Students are unable to get access to the resources they need; businesses are denied access to important markets. This is most prevalent in rural communities, and thankfully a concerted effort is being made to bring proper internet access to everyone in the country.

A group of community leaders, rural advocates, and top innovators have launched the Connect Americans Now group in order to work towards the goal of providing broadband connectivity in every market in the country. As Farm Futures notes:

“CAN’s founding partners include Microsoft, ACT: The App Association, the National Rural Education Association, the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Alaska Communications, Axiom, the Mid-Atlantic Broadcasting Communities Corporation, the American Pain Relief Institute, HTS Ag, and others.”

As Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director of Connect Americans Now, stated:

“All Americans – regardless of where they live – deserve access to high-speed internet. Without a broadband connection, millions of students struggle to keep up with their assignments, Americans in rural areas are unable to fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture and businesses are unable to tap into the world of online commerce. Congress and the FCC must stand with rural America by allowing internet service providers to deliver broadband via white spaces spectrum.”

The GAIN coalition is glad to see this organized and committed movement towards providing internet access to every single American. It’s vital that the proper infrastructure extends into each community so that absolutely no one is left behind without access to fast and reliable internet.

5G Set To Launch In 2018

Samsung Electronics Americas and Verizon are coming together to take the next step in introducing a new generation of high speed wireless service across the country. In the second half of 2018, Verizon and Samsung will commercially launch their 5G wireless service in Sacramento, making progress towards fully integrating the country with the infrastructure necessary for this new, high speed service.

This has been a thorough process of trials and innovation. Before, when they opted to bring 5G services to Sacramento commercially, “the companies cited 2017 trials in seven U.S. cities where they tout ‘successfully tested and verified 5G performance’ with millimeter-wave spectrum. Findings show a 5G radio can reach up to a building’s 19th floor and that rain and snow have not disrupted service,” according to Politico Pro.

Introducing 5G services across the country will be no small task – it will require a concerted effort on the part of both the service providers and lawmakers in Washington and across the country. As Politico Pro writes, “the wireless industry has long talked up the advent of faster 5G internet service, which they say will require new infrastructure such as small cells. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have shown great interest in finding the best ways to facilitate 5G deployment and weighed legislative proposals in both chambers aimed at helping the U.S. lead on the new service.”

When 5G services are brought online in Sacramento this year, it will be just the start of a nationwide implementation of this cutting edge technology. The GAIN coalition is happy to already see growing support for installing the necessary infrastructure, both for the additional internet access that will be afforded to millions of Americans, and the thousands of jobs that will be created as nationwide construction projects get underway.

Pennsylvania Ready to Improve Infrastructure

While the current state of America’s infrastructure is poor, great efforts are being made in order to remedy this problem. Pennsylvania has announced that “more than 90 projects worth more than $200 million were under construction or bid in 2017 in the state Department of Transportation’s northwestern region.”

There were already great strides made already, as we’ve written about previously. In addition to these projects, “construction was underway on some major multi-year projects and other work that was bid in 2016 for construction in 2017.” This demonstrates a continued emphasis on restoring and improving our crumbling infrastructure.

Pennsylvania has shown a great drive to make their infrastructure great, and other states should follow their lead. The GAIN coalition is thrilled to see this type of commitment, and we hope to see an even greater focus on our infrastructure come into being during 2018.

FERC Chairman McIntyre Sworn In

For the first time in months, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is without any vacant seats. We previously wrote on FERC’s return to a quorum – and their ability to move forward with projects vital to our nation’s infrastructure.

Now the Commission has finally returned to full staff, after swearing in “Republican Kevin McIntyre, giving the panel a full slate of commissioners just days before it is expected to rule on a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.” Mr. McIntyre is set to act as Chairman of FERC, and was sworn in last Thursday, pledging that he “would adhere to the commission’s basic duties of approving and regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and crude oil, without favoring one energy source over another.”

This is a great step for the regulatory process, which has so long hindered and delayed the much needed progression of our infrastructure, and prevented important projects from getting underway. We’re excited for Chairman McIntyre to get underway at FERC, and we hope to see great results soon.

Minnesota Bridges Win Multiple Awards

The American Segmental Bridge Institute recently announced that the Minnesota Department of Transportation won three separate awards for new bridges crossing the Mississippi River in Southeast Minnesota. Interstate 90 Dresbach Bridge and the new Highway 43 Winona Bridge were both named as winners of the 2017 ASBI Bridge Award of Excellence awards.

As the Post Bulletin writes:

“The organization praised the Dresbach Bridge for its beauty and efficiency while being built across a sensitive environmental area and in harsh winter conditions. ‘This bridge’s structural elements provide aesthetically pleasing shapes and forms with the capacity to deliver a record setting concrete span over a major waterway for its owner,’ the selection committee noted. ‘It is a world class Mississippi River crossing bridge.’”

And these weren’t the only awards given to these bridges:

“The Winona Bridge also received the 2017 Excellence in Concrete Construction second place award in infrastructure from the American Concrete Institute. And the Dresbach Bridge earned as spot as one of Roads & Bridges Top 10 Bridges from across the country, coming in at No. 9.”

The GAIN coalition commends Minnesota’s great work in both revamping its infrastructure, and setting a benchmark for others to follow. The first step in improving our crumbling infrastructure is bringing greater funding to projects like this, and the second step is ensuring that the projects are built to the highest standards – something that Minnesota has demonstrated tremendously.

Oklahoma To Invest Nearly $1 Billion in Roads and Bridges

America’s infrastructure is thankfully in the spotlight, and we continue to move forward with repairs and improvements that benefit millions of Americans all across the country. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Transportation commission approved a work plan that would vastly improve their infrastructure – with a specific focus on roads and bridges throughout the State.

Administered by the state Department of Transportation, Oklahoma is set to combine federal, state, local, and tribal funds to go towards improving county roads and bridges. In total, the project will invest close to a billion dollars — $926 million – in Oklahoma’s infrastructure, a remarkable focus on an area of our country that needs attention now more than ever.

Nearly 400 bridges will be either replaced or repaired as Oklahoma moves to improve their infrastructure, and hundreds of miles of county roads – at least 800 miles – will be improved as well. These repairs and improvements are set to occur over the next five years, marking an incredible dedication to improving the infrastructure of Oklahoma, and setting a great example for other States, and the country, to follow.

The GAIN coalition is excited that improving America’s infrastructure is becoming more and more of a focus on States and communities across the country, and we’re thrilled that Oklahoma is taking such an important step towards a better future for their roads and bridges. We hope to see greater attention come to our infrastructure yet, and that roads and bridges all across the country will improved soon.

Keystone XL Pipeline Takes Important Step Forward

Earlier this morning, the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to improve America’s energy infrastructure, and provide a tremendous economic boost to American workers, families, and communities. Voting 3-2 in favor, the Nebraska PSC approved the route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, letting the project move forward and begin construction on a pipeline that will carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to Nebraska.

The construction of this project will bring more energy to markets and help continue to reliability, energy security and opportunity. The simple fact remains that there is no alternative safer for the transportation of crude oil than underground pipelines. As GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens wrote in his recent column for The Hill:

“Rail, trucks and barge each play an important role in transporting energy resources, but pipelines are the backbone of our nation’s energy delivery system. Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally sensitive and most cost-effective way to transport petrochemical resources.”

The United States requires more than 800 million gallons of petroleum and petroleum products every day, and expanding the infrastructure that brings these necessary resources to markets across the country is vital for America’s energy security. The Keystone XL Pipeline will provide an important and necessary channel through which the resources that Americans use and need every day will flow.

The GAIN coalition applauds the decision made by the Nebraska Public Service Commission. It’s another step in the right direction that will boost economies and create jobs, while providing a vital service in the process. Read our official statement on the decision here.