March 15, 2018

Surge in support for expanding rural broadband via TV white spaces 

Washington, D.C. – Just over three months after its national launch, the Connect Americans Now (CAN) coalition is marking a major milestone, enrolling its 100th member organization. CAN advocates are working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other policymakers to allocate enough unlicensed, low-band spectrum in every market for broadband connectivity, particularly in under-served rural communities.

CAN’s swelling ranks now include national organizations such as the National Grange, the National PTA and Connected Nation, as well as regional organizations like the Wisconsin and Oregon Farm Bureaus and the Montana Policy Institute.

“We’ve reached a critical tipping point, and advocates from every walk of life are banding together to make sure that rural broadband access is a top priority,” said Richard T. Cullen, executive director of CAN. “More than 19 million rural Americans remain stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide, where students are unable to keep up with their assignments, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture tools and small businesses are locked out of the global economy. We look forward to working with our members to ensure Congress and the FCC stand with rural America by allowing providers to deliver broadband via white spaces spectrum.”

To provide affordable and reliable service in rural communities, CAN seeks to deploy a combination of “wired” and “wireless” technologies, including fiber-based, satellite and wireless technologies, leveraging a range of frequencies including TV white spaces. To make this plan a reality, CAN is urging the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country.

This regulatory certainty would allow local service providers, equipment vendors and chip manufacturers to quicken the pace of their investments, mass produce lower-cost equipment, and bring connectivity into small businesses, homes, schools, clinics, and farms across the heartland.

“As the leading voice for rural America, there are few issues as important to the Grange as the digital divide that leaves 19 million Americans struggling to keep up in the modern economy,” said National Grange President Betsy Huber. “We recognize the potential for TV white spaces to expand connectivity for a fraction of the price offered by current solutions. We look forward to our continued partnership with the coalition and urge the FCC to reserve three TV white space channels for wireless use in every market across the country.”

As part of its efforts, CAN has spearheaded educational campaigns across the country, hosting roundtable discussions with Senator Wicker, Senator Thune and Congressman Cramer and working with Wisconsin lawmakers to introduce a resolution calling on the FCC to support TV white space technology.

“All children deserve the opportunity to work hard and excel in the classroom, but this is a daily struggle for millions of students across the heartland who remain stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said National Rural Education Association Executive Director Allen Pratt. “Students without a broadband connection at home are unable to research an author, watch a documentary, turn in assignments or – perhaps most importantly – master the computer skills that will be critical to the future success in college or the workforce. We are proud to be founding members of CAN and look forward to helping our coalition grow and build support for TV white space technology.”

The plan endorsed by CAN will rapidly accelerate the deployment – and reduce the cost – of high-speed internet service for 19.4 million rural Americans who live each day without broadband access. It does so by taking advantage of unused but powerful bandwidth below the 700 MHz frequency range, also known as TV white spaces, made available on an unlicensed basis. Wireless signals in this range can travel over hills and through buildings and trees and, therefore, are great for last mile broadband access in rural areas.

From education to telemedicine and precision agriculture to business development, closing the digital divide could transform the lives and livelihoods of rural Americans from all walks of life.

Implications of the Digital Divide 

  • 6.5 million students lack access to high speed internet, but 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection. This means that millions of students – most often in rural areas – struggle to keep up with their assignments and fail to learn the computer skills they need to succeed and enter college or the workforce.
  • Telemedicine could collectively save lives and millions of dollars annually for underserved patients and rural hospitals that pay up to three times more for broadband than their urban counterparts. Broadband allows patients, regardless of where they live, to access specialists and benefit from advanced monitoring services that would normally require hours of travel for patients or their providers.
  • Broadband access brings the promise of precision agriculture, including remote monitoring equipment that helps farmers save money by optimizing irrigation, conserving resources and increasing yields. It also allows farmers to search for new customers, find buyers willing to pay higher prices and identify the most affordable sources of seeds, fertilizers and farm equipment.
  • Broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling rural small businesses to expand their customer base from local to global and attract new industries to rural communities.
  • High-speed internet supports workforce development by allowing rural job seekers to access services online, develop new skills through cloud-based training and secure additional employment opportunities like remote teleworking. It will also allow rural communities to keep and attract new workers who require a broadband connection to carry out their daily responsibilities.

About Connect Americans Now

Connect Americans Now is a group of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates and leading innovators committed to eliminating the digital divide that is holding back rural America. Our goal is to bring rural Americans who currently lack connectivity safe and affordable broadband access by 2022 so they can take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that exist in other communities.


Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans. Tell Washington to take action to bridge the digital divide now!