For many Americans, access to broadband Internet is routinely enjoyed. But in rural America, broadband can be scarce in many regions, limiting a number of activities—and these limitations have only been highlighted to a significant degree during the COVID pandemic. Because of this, many are calling for key rural America initiatives to invest and expand high-speed Internet services.
With the current political administration, efforts are being made to expand broadband to rural America. This involves grants, public-private partnerships, and emergency funding. If all proceeds as planned, the opportunities for the nation to excel are numerous.
Proposed Rural America Initiatives for Broadband
The COVID pandemic made it perfectly clear that broadband services were essential for optimal functioning. This was most evident in rural areas, of which many lacked opportunities to connect to online education, entertainment streaming, and telemedicine. As these limitations became clear, policymakers began suggesting rural America initiatives to address the problem. Some such programs began under the Trump administration, but the current $1 trillion+ infrastructure bill introduced under the Biden administration is taking this further. In fact, the current proposed bill passed by the Senate includes $65 billion to enhance broadband in rural America. This includes replacement of local ISP networks, last-mile connections, and emergency funding related to the pandemic.
The current infrastructure bill as well as the CARES Act have recognized the importance of rural America initiatives involving high-speed Internet. The infrastructure bill will provide $42.5 billion to states for grants that go toward improving broadband in rural America. These grants will be provided through the Department of Agriculture. Other grants and approvals are also available through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In fact, the FCC approved the placement of over 12,000 satellites for broadband by StarLink in 2018. StarLink, launched by Elon Musk, plans to resolve the broadband in rural America issues via space. Given these efforts, it’s clear rural America initiatives for high-speed Internet have become a priority.
The Potential Broadband in Rural America Could Bring
With needed supports from rural America initiatives, broadband could usher in a new era for poorly populated areas. It has been well recognized that rural areas lack access to effective healthcare in many instances. The opportunities that high-speed Internet offered in healthcare during the pandemic proved these infrastructures could solve rural issues. With effective broadband in rural America, enhanced access to specialists and to disease monitoring could expand. It could also lead to better routine and preventative care. If realized, these opportunities could significantly reduce healthcare costs and improve overall quality of life.
Other potential areas for improvement with broadband in rural America include education and jobs. Online education opportunities are growing rapidly, and many reports suggest these programs are effective for higher education. Videoconferencing tools have also ushered in work-from-home trends that could similarly benefit rural populations. And e-commerce access could boost consumption nationwide, resulting in economic benefits. All of this requires broadband in rural America, which is why rural America initiatives are so important in this area.