Will A National Infrastructure Plan Affect Those We Serve?

Posted: May 23, 2017

Both parties emphasize broadband

President Trump has called for significant infrastructure spending. While specifics remain unclear, he has discussed broad goals such as improved access to broadband as well as improvements to roads, bridges and airports.

Democrats have countered with a plan that also emphasizes broadband networks along with improved roads, bridges, schools and veterans hospitals. So even at a time of political divide, leaders of both parties recognize the importance of broadband.

A robust broadband infrastructure provides rural and urban communities greater access to education, commerce, health care and government services, according to Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

Bloomfield testified in March before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transition during a hearing regarding national infrastructure improvements. “Small, hometown broadband providers have led and are continuing to lead the way in deploying high-speed, sustainable broadband that responds to the needs of consumers and businesses in rural America,” she says. “To not have access to high-speed internet today should be unimaginable, yet millions of rural Americans have limited or even no access to robust broadband. And while it is critical to deliver broadband to the unserved, it is just as critical that those already receiving broadband remain served.”

While infrastructure improvements have some bipartisan support, a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through the fall did not include the sweeping improvements touted during last year’s election.

President Trump hasn’t unveiled a plan, but he has called for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure without specifying how much should be spent on roads, bridges and similar projects.

He did, however, propose a “skinny budget” that actually reduced infrastructure spending, as well as created cuts to programs such as Community Development Block Grants.

Budget battles will heat up again in the fall, and it’s unclear how much traction Trump’s plans for infrastructure spending will receive or what approach he will encourage.

What is clear, however, is the power of broadband to help communities create a better future. Broadband infrastructure is more important than ever before, Bloomfield says.

The inability to communicate is what prompted small businesses and cooperatives in rural America to organize years ago as pioneers who brought the telephone to rural America.

“With this infrastructure came new opportunities for business development and economic prosperity — outcomes possible only because of the reliable, sustainable communications at their fingertips,” Bloomfield says. “Today, rural America continues to be fertile ground for innovation, but broadband has replaced the telephone and equaled roads and bridges and airports as the infrastructure opportunity of the 21st century. As the broadband era commenced, broadband providers have leapt to the call once again, leading the way in building advanced networks that support cutting-edge technologies and the internet’s fastest speeds across large portions of rural America.”