The Parkersburg News and Sentinel recently ran an Op-Ed piece from Congressman Johnson (R-OH) on the importance of rural broadband, which included the need for action from government to make it easier for providers to expand service…
I’ve recently held broadband roundtables across Eastern and Southeastern Ohio focused specifically on this issue, and it’s one I’ve been talking about for some time.
But now, there is a national conversation taking place on how to get broadband providers to go the last mile, and strike a balance with electric utilities to utilize their existing or planned infrastructure. And, private investment remains an essential component to any broadband buildout. The Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, is currently considering legislation to streamline federal permitting processes, create common contracts for siting wireless facilities on federal properties, and create an inventory of federal assets. One of the key roles of Congress is to facilitate policy and programs that help unserved or underserved communities. The infrastructure bill that will likely be debated later this year must include provisions for rural broadband deployment.
Streamlining the process would make it easier, would make it more affordable for providers. My hope is that the plan that they come up with also serves the customers/citizens well. That means speeds that are fast enough for a family or business and consider affordability. Looking at Minnesota’s broadband speed goals that means 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026. Affordable is more difficult to define. The median cost of broadband (in the US) is $80. That may be high for some folks and they may quality for low cost options BUT what I’m sure that doesn’t include are overage fees related to data caps. I think that is one area where the government could barter here. Perhaps the government can streamline access to public rights of way and recipients of that benefit would pass on saving to the customers.