The Daily Yonder recently ran an editorial from Matthew Marcus from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. The article questions the FCC’s decision to “throw billions of dollars to the companies that have most resisted investing in rural areas”…
North Dakota is a leader in next-generation fiber-optic networks. Parts of Eastern Washington have more choices for broadband than any major city does. And among the mountains of central Missouri, cooperatives are providing far superior Internet access than is available in Jefferson City.
What do these disparate projects have in common? They are rural regions with some of the best Internet access in the country. But their lessons have been drowned out by lobbying from the big telephone companies that have ensured they get billions of federal dollars to deliver obsolete services to rural America.
The Connect America Fund is the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) effort to connect the unconnected, mostly by throwing billions of dollars to the companies that have most resisted investing in rural areas.
The article reminds us of the different standards when it comes to defining broadband…
The Connect America Fund program requires internet service providers to deploy broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. That’s gravely slower than the standard FCC-defined benchmark speed of 25/3 Mbps.
The article lifts up the work of cooperatives in getting better broadband to rural areas…
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, and Senator George Norris have done more to expand high quality internet access in America than any modern Congress or president despite all being dead for more than 60 years. They built the rural co-ops that continue to invest in their communities.
These cooperatives are in rural areas for a reason — elected leaders recognized nearly 100 years ago that the private sector would not build essential infrastructure in rural areas and it would be wasteful to throw federal dollars at them. Instead, they created locally accountable organizations to build and maintain the electric grid and later telephone lines at high-quality and affordable rates.
Looking at the 2017 Minnesota map of areas with access to broadband at speeds of 100/20 we can see some standout areas in rural Minnesota and most are served by cooperatives. Paul Bunyan serves the area in Northwest Minnesota around Bemidji, Garden Valley serves the area just west of there. West Central Telephone served the area east of there. Lake County Connections serves the area in Northeast, Acira Farmers Mutual Federated Telephone serves the counties west of the Twin Cities and Alliance Cooperative serves Rock County in the Southwest. I may have missed some and there are some areas not served with cooperatives but on the whole the map backs up the Daily Yonder’s assertion that cooperatives are serving rural areas. (You can let me know below if I missed someone!)