Support Rural America by Supporting Broadband Investment
Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE)
Friday, September 23rd, 2016
As high-speed internet technology has advanced rapidly over the past decade, much has been made in ensuring that those advances have benefited not only citizens in the densely-populated metro areas of the U.S., but those on the outskirts—on our farms and in our small towns —as well. Over the past several years, billions of dollars have been invested in building and maintaining networks of fiber infrastructure that have allowed rural communities to access high-speed internet, empowering businesses everywhere to grow and thrive. However, a new proposed regulation for broadband services currently threatens $1.4 billion in future investment, formerly dedicated to maintaining high-speed internet services in rural communities. Further, this proposal puts thousands of jobs at stake; jeopardizing the prosperity of smaller communities along with it.
The importance of high-speed internet and its continued improvement with technological advancements cannot be overstated in rural communities. To the farmers, the ranchers, the small business owners, the local branches of national companies, high-speed internet is the difference between providing sharp and timely services to their communities, and remaining dependent on subpar resources to accomplish everyday tasks. It is the difference between remaining competitive in a connected world, and being forced to fall behind. By limiting the resources that rural communities have access to, by discouraging future broadband investment, the Federal Communications Commission proposal would essentially halt job creation, local economic development, and the ability of countless regions throughout the country to continue to grow.
The FCC’s proposed regulation on broadband providers comes in an effort to balance what the commission deems a “non-competitive” market. If the rural areas that the regulation would affect were truly operating in noncompetitive markets, then perhaps this price cap could be potentially beneficial. However, up-to-date data on the markets reveals not only that they are already competitive without regulation, but that the market data that the FCC used to base its proposal on is out of date and inaccurate. Though perhaps born out of good intentions to help a noncompetitive market function, this regulation would actively harm the rural communities that have been fighting for years to get the broadband industry to where it is today.
Proposing price cap regulation on essential broadband services now is particularly disheartening to both national and rural advocates alike, especially considering that in 2011, the Obama Administration formed the White House Rural Council—committed to promoting and coordinating private-sector partnerships for telecommunications advancement—intending to strengthen local access to broadband. Just five years later, the FCC’s proposed regulation has the country taking one large step backward.
If the FCC wants to help rural communities to move at the same broadband speed as the rest of the country, it doesn’t need to regulate a competitive marketplace; it needs to look again towards available, up-to-date data, and recognize that Main Street, USA needs solidified investment in broadband now more than ever.
National WIFE President
442 #4 Rd.
Roundup, MT 59072
**Just a note that I would like to share that Linda sent me in her email. Just in the last summer, two families close to Winifred, Montana had young people move back to their family ranches due to new high-speed internet. They can now telecommute with their day job while being able to help out on the family ranch. This is an incredibly important development that enables families to keep Montana ranches and farms intact. A big THANK YOU to Linda Newman from Venture West Ranches for taking the time to write and send us this article on a very important subject. If you are interested in learning more about WIFE you can access their website here. If you want to like them on Facebook here is the National Facebook page and the Montana Facebook page.
In rural Montana, owning and operating a farm or ranch is a time intensive and hard way of living. However, it is beyond worth it. If you enjoyed this article about Montana rural broadband, consider some of the following articles that touch on additional issues threatening our way of life.
About the Author
Partner at Venture West Ranches
Buzz Tatom, a partner at Venture West Ranches, is a ranch owner and has built, run and sold numerous businesses in his career. This gives him a unique background in helping Montana farmers and ranchers navigate the life decisions that we all have to face. Whether it is passing a ranch on to the next generation or planning for eventual sale, his talents and contacts help save clients money and navigate complicated transactions.