This morning President Donald Trump released details on his long-awaited infrastructure initiative. Both as the lead organization for broadband issues within the “Rebuild Rural” coalition of several hundred stakeholders and through its own work with various offices in the administration and on Capitol Hill, NTCA has long advocated for the inclusion of resources for rural broadband in any infrastructure plans and greatly appreciates President Trump’s focus on rural America in the administration’s recently-released infrastructure initiative. The initiative calls for a substantial portion of infrastructure funds to be dedicated to rural projects, including rural broadband, through a proposed Rural Infrastructure Program and a Transformative Projects Program. It also aims to ease permitting processes that hinder the timely deployment of broadband networks. According to political trade press, President Trump was in a meeting this morning with state and local government officials and noted that the $50 billion his plan allocates to rural parts of the country should at least be used in part to expand access for broadband saying “It provides $50 billion for rural infrastructure who have really been left out, the rural folks have been left out, including broadband access which they don’t have and they want it and the farmers want it.”
Separately, NTCA is advocating on behalf of members as Congress moves forward with a separate plan to spend $20 billion over two years on infrastructure. The plan to dedicate resources to infrastructure stems from an agreement among Congressional leaders struck during last week’s Bipartisan Budget Act negotiations on Capitol Hill.
All of these proposals remain works in progress and nothing is certain, but NTCA will continue to work with the administration and Congress on our members’ behalf to promote the use of such resources for dedicated funding of rural broadband and to encourage the most effective use of any such resources by leveraging existing programs with proven track records, like the Universal Service Fund (USF), and urging careful coordination among programs to promote and sustain the business case for rural broadband.
Let’s keep the infrastructure conversation engaged on social media by using hashtags #BuildBroadbandWithUs and #RebuildRural. More to follow as the congressional process heats up!