The election of President Donald Trump underscored the immense divide between rural and urban Americans. While those in large population centers continue to gain access to better services and opportunities, rural Americans face a diametrically opposite situation. Primarily among those is a lack of basic, affordable broadband internet to tens of millions of rural Americans.
We live in an unprecedented era of digital communications, where rapid access to information at our fingertips is not simply a luxury, but a norm among urban Americans. This exponential expansion of knowledge has unleashed a veritable third industrial revolution -- this time, in the digital world.
While those of us reading this piece have certainly reaped the rewards of the information revolution, 34,000,000 of our fellow Americans have been left behind.
Unlike Hillary Clinton’s campaign proposal to spend billions more tax dollars to bring broadband internet to rural areas, new technological developments have paved the way for the free market to deliver an efficient and timely solution to this critical issue.
After the federal government has wasted billions on this matter, isn’t it time we try something different?
One simple change to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules would unleash a flood of private investment into rural areas.
The secret? Use the infrastructure that’s already there.
New technologies allow internet service providers to wirelessly transmit broadband over so-called “low band” frequencies, which are often known as “TV white spaces.” These channels, which generally broadcast under 700MHz, have the potential to deliver quality and affordable internet access to millions.
The FCC previously kept these white spaces to prevent signal interference; however in today’s digital age, they are simply no longer needed. The agency adopted initial rules regulating the use of TV white spaces between low-power channels, but access to many of these channels for millions of rural Americans is still at risk.
This summer, the FCC will decide whether or not to finalize its pending proposal to preserve at least one vacant TV channel in each market, as well as their other rules governing “white space.” If the agency preserves at least three usable “white space” channels in each market, the private sector is ready to begin massive investment in internet technologies for underserved communities.
If the FCC rules against this commonsense proposal, poor Americans will continue to fall behind and lack access to modern technology. Affordable internet access in rural communities will help government to provide more efficient services, enable doctors to improve patient outcomes, and close the urban/rural divide in education.
The FCC has been more than willing to spend billions of your tax dollars to fail to provide internet access to rural Americans. As President Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
This is one of those cases.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Trump, should immediately remove these onerous regulations, and continue enacting commonsense reform to improve the lives of millions of Americans. It’s not simply the logical thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.