President Donald Trump’s address about economic issues facing rural America at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention yesterday touched on Trump rural broadband initiatives. But although Trump talked about the importance of broadband to the rural economy and signed two executive orders aimed at facilitating rural broadband deployment, I came away asking ‘where the beef’ was.
Trump Rural Broadband Initiatives
Rural broadband comprised a small portion of Trump’s address yesterday. In his comments, he referenced a new report from his Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, noting that the report found that “broadband internet access is an issue of vital concern to [rural] communities and businesses.”
At the conclusion of his address, Trump signed two presidential orders he said would help rural America get “faster and better internet coverage.” The focus of one of those orders, Trump said, is streamlining and expediting requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America. The other order is focused on supporting broadband tower facilities in rural America and federal property managed by the Department of the Interior.
“Those towers are gonna go up and you’re gonna have great broadband,” said Trump, offering a relatively naive view of what’s needed to bring broadband to the parts of rural America where it is lacking.
Some stakeholders may have been hoping to hear about new funding for broadband. But Trump did not say anything about that. One of Trump’s first actions after he was elected president was to seek input on infrastructure initiatives that might spur U.S. economic development. At that time, various stakeholders suggested that broadband should be part of any such plans, and Republican FCC commissioners noted that if funding were made available for broadband, it should be administered through the Universal Service program – a program that currently faces a budget shortfall.
But although Trump said today that “necessary funds” would be available to rebuild crumbling rural infrastructure including roadways, railways and waterways, he made no reference to funding for broadband.
And while the rural task force report also highlights the important role that broadband can play in rural America, report recommendations do not discuss broadband funding other than a suggestion to “assess the efficacy of current programs.”
Other report recommendations include:
- Establishing executive leadership to expand e-connectivity across rural America that would draw upon various government offices and agencies.
- Assessing the state of rural e-connectivity. (I’ve got to ask: Doesn’t this duplicate other efforts already undertaken and ongoing?)
- Reducing regulatory barriers to infrastructure deployment (a recommendation today’s executive orders aim to address.)
- Incentivizing private capital investment through “free-market policies, laws and structures.”