President Donald Trump says that improving broadband availability in rural areas will be an element of his ambitious $1 trillion infrastructure plan he will submit to Congress, enabling smaller towns and cities to improve connectivity and their economic status.
Trump made this promise, according to a Bloomberg report, Wednesday night at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, following a tour of the campus’ agricultural facilities.
"I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal—$1 trillion proposal, you’ll be seeing it very shortly—to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America also," Trump said. "We will rebuild rural America."
A key concern among farm lobbies is lower broadband adoption rates are effectively stalling economic development efforts.
There’s clearly a disparity when it comes to measuring available speeds in urban versus rural areas. According to a 2016 FCC report, only 55% of rural residents have access to 25 Mbps speeds compared to 94% in urban areas.
"We have to make sure American farmers and their families, wherever they may be, wherever they may go, have the infrastructure projects that they need to compete and grow," Trump said.
Trump’s promise to include funds aimed at expanding rural high-speed Internet access in his infrastructure proposal was lauded by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“I am grateful to President Trump for his leadership on expanding high-speed Internet access in rural America,” Pai said in a statement. “Far too many families and businesses in rural communities do not have access to adequate broadband, limiting their opportunities in the digital age. Closing the digital divide needs to be a national priority, and the President’s decision to include rural broadband in his infrastructure plan holds great promise for creating more jobs and prosperity in our nation’s rural areas.”
After Trump set out a plan to use $200 billion in federal funds to improve national infrastructure, a number of rural telco groups like the NTCA have advocated to include rural broadband expansion.
In January, NTCA called out the efforts of co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus and 43 of their fellow senators as well as the co-chairs of the House Rural Broadband Caucus and 65 of their colleagues for signing letters urging Trump to include broadband within any forthcoming infrastructure initiative.
“Reliable and affordable broadband is essential to maintaining a rich quality of life and fostering job creation and economic development in both urban and rural America,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, in a release.