Access to high speed internet has clear benefits for communities. Businesses are better able to promote themselves, and students have greater resources that they can tap for their studies. Yet millions of Americans in rural communities must deal with a widening digital gap that has prevented growth in those areas. Pushing to bring high speed internet to all Americans is extremely important to the prosperity and quality of life for our citizens. The FCC and Senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) are taking action to remedy this problem by seeking to bring access to all rural communities across the country.
The FCC recently announced that it will open an auction in 2018 to address the gaps in broadband throughout the nation. The Connect America Fund Phase II auction, also known as Auction 903, will award $198 million annually to service providers who deliver these vital broadband services to areas that face high costs and are underserved. Microsoft is expected to make an effort to win the auction, and GAIN has previously applauded their efforts to bring access to the internet to all Americans.
The FCC auction is complemented by a legislation proposal put forth by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Capito (R-WV). The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act would provide funding to bring rural broadband infrastructure to high need areas. The legislation would provide up to 50% of a broadband project’s cost, and up to 75% for projects in areas designated as high-need. The proposal has already received support from several private sector organizations who have advocated for an expansion of rural broadband access.
The GAIN coalition is thrilled to see such strong pushes to bring broadband infrastructure to people across the country who need it most. Supporting our rural communities like this will help local, small businesses to grow, while also supporting higher education in those regions. We hope to see continued efforts from both lawmakers in Washington, and private companies across the country, to help every American gain access to this important resource.