Virtually every analyst agrees that rural Americans are the least likely to have available access to broadband. Geography and economics conspire against investment in broadband in America. It is simply not easy to recoup broadband investment in states where cattle outnumber people and homes are dispersed widely. Fiber optic and other broadband technologies are expensive to deploy in these areas, and broadband wireless technologies are just now becoming fully viable for deployment.
Just as this nation brought electricity, telephones and Internet service to rural America, we must make broadband networks ubiquitously available, as well. Appropriately, the lion’s share of this funding will address broadband in unserved areas through programs at the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture. In addition, funding will be available for improving broadband networks at libraries, community colleges, community technology centers and other locations where low-income families and the working poor are most likely to go for broadband access. According to Morgan Stanley, the national residential broadband penetration rate is currently about 56 percent of all households. For those 40 million plus households who don’t have broadband at home, and for those tens of millions of Americans without basic Internet access who disproportionately are poor, recent immigrants, senior citizens or other minorities, these community investments will make broadband more available and more accessible.
Bruce P. Mehlman