White House Releases Update on Rural Broadband Initiative

Cites milestones in feds effort to boost infrastructure deployment
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The White House has released the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, which it bills as key points on a "roadmap" for increasing rural broadband access and goosing private sector investment in broadband infrastructure, with a focus on leveraging government assets and access to government lands and properties to help with building out that infrastructure.

The was compiled by the Department of Commerce and Department of Agriculture.

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“This Administration has made infrastructure investment and prosperity in rural America a top priority," said The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in a statement on the report. "Underpinning that mission is access to reliable, affordable Internet connectivity,” said Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the President for Technology Policy. “With a keen focus on removing barriers to broadband deployment and making it easier to build networks in rural communities, the American Broadband Initiative sets up rural America for success in our 21st century economy.”

In January 2018, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum “Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior." The president said that Americans "need access to reliable, affordable broadband Internet service to succeed in today’s information-driven, global economy."

The report, which was mandated by Congress, highlights the milestones of that American Broadband Initiative. Among those are the USDA's preparation of a $600 million broadband pilot program, the Department of Interior's mapping of 7,000 DOI towers that can be used for commercial buildouts on federal lands, and creating one-stop permitting information for broadband infrastructure on federal lands, buildings and those DOI towers.

"The Administration is committed to working with State, local, and Tribal governments, private-sectors companies, civic leaders, and broadband stakeholders to close America’s digital divide and ensure that all Americans have access to high-speed broadband," said the White House report.

The FCC has been working from the same blueprint for easing permitting and siting of towers at the local government level, including easing historic and environmental reviews and instituting shot clocks.

The White House report deals with efforts by NTIA  (Department of Commerce), USDA, Interior and other non-independent agencies responding to the President's rural broadband challenge, but the FCC is a consultant to the initiative.

“Today’s report is great news for efforts to close the digital divide," said Telecommunications Industry Association SVP Cinnamon Rogers. "As the report highlights, broadband deployment can be hindered by regulatory obstacles, would benefit from better access to federal facilities, and needs coordinated funding to maximize the use of federal dollars. “The President’s American Broadband Initiative is an important step to make coordinated progress on these issues, and we appreciate the significant work that has already been done by several federal agencies over the past year."

"WISPA commends the Trump administration's continuing commitment to rural broadband deployment, said Claude Aiken, president of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA). “We appreciate that the Administration has called on WISPA during their policy development process, and we look forward to ontinuing to work together with them and all interested parties so that broadband-enabled economic opportunity can be made available to all Americans.“Fixed wireless internet technology is an essential part of the solution to the urban-rural digital divide. WISPA members are working every day to close the digital divide. We need government to come alongside and help us with more flexible spectrum policy, better mapping data, streamlined access to federal lands, and cost-effective, technology-agnostic approaches to subsidies.”

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