Telecom associations applaud Trump’s rural broadband plan

The telecom industry cheered the Trump administration’s efforts this week to expand access to broadband internet throughout rural America and break down the so-called digital divide that stifles U.S. economic growth.

President Donald Trump signed two executive orders on Monday to streamline and expedite broadband deployment and adoption in rural communities following a key speech at the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation convention.

“Last April, I commissioned a task force to meet with farmers and local communities and find the greatest barriers to rural prosperity,” Trump said. “The task force heard from farmers that broadband internet access is an issue of vital concern to their communities and businesses.”

The first order directs the Department of Interior to develop a plan to support rural broadband tower facilities on federal properties in rural communities. The order additionally instructs that federal assets are made more available for rural broadband deployment and installation.

The second order will streamline and expedite the application process for broadband facility requests in rural America. It will standardize the request form as well as the master contract required for wireless facility sitings on buildings and other property managed by the federal government. This allows for quicker application times and more efficient processing regarding location availability for asset installation.

The executive actions follow the release of a report from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity that was tasked with setting priorities to promote economic development, technological innovation and improving quality of life in rural America.

American Cable Association (ACA) President and CEO Matthew M. Polka applauded Trump’s step toward accelerating broadband deployment, noting that nearly all of the ACA’s 700 broadband provider members operate in rural areas.

“By focusing on additional measures that the government can take to ensure consumers in rural areas have robust broadband service, President Trump’s Task Force has performed a great service,” Polka said. “ACA and its members look forward to working with the Trump Administration as it continues its work to ensure rural communities thrive, especially by having access to high performance broadband service.”

Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA), said that the new timeline and reporting requirements highlighted in the executive orders add accountability to the murky, complicated process of positioning wireless infrastructure on federal property.

“By streamlining the permitting process for siting wireless infrastructure, the federal government is reducing barriers to the deployment of the wireless networks that will deliver real economic benefits to rural communities,” Adelstein said. He added that he was encouraged that the president has directed the General Services Administration to review its application forms and require that many land management agencies use those forms.

Comparably, Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, was encouraged by the focus on streamlining reporting requirements and the economic sustainability it will bring to rural America.

“NTCA is eager to assist in pursuing the report recommendations and achieving the vision of universal service articulated—to ensure the adoption of policies that will promote and sustain robust and affordable rural broadband access for the benefit of consumers, businesses, and communities throughout America, rural and urban alike,” Bloomfield said.

INCOMPAS, the Internet and competitive networks association, CEO Chip Pickering commended Trump’s dedication to expanding rural broadband deployment, but said it is just the beginning.

“As we work to streamline and remove regulatory barriers to deployment, it is important that government investments remain open to, and encourage, innovation from new companies seeking to get into the game,” Pickering said. “Policies that protect monopoly deployment deliver slower, more expensive results, and it is our hope that President Trump and all policy makers will embrace and unleash the power of competition policy to promote faster, more affordable broadband for rural and underserved markets.”

Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Steven K. Berry addressed and thanked the Rural Prosperity Task Force for its work in bringing a voice to the challenges and concerns of the underserved rural communities throughout the country.

“There is no question federal lands are an important part of our country and providing seamless coverage in these areas is just as important as any other location, especially during times of emergencies,” Berry said. “Encouraging investment in broadband infrastructure will strengthen the U.S.’s position as a global broadband leader, will help boost the economy and, most importantly, will help close the digital divide so that no American will be left behind in a connected world.”