Fight for rural broadband connectivity continues

WIBW News Now

An advocacy group for expanding rural broadband access through the use of TV white space is still working to get regulatory approval for the broadening of the concept.

“Our goal is to make sure that internet service providers who are reaching out in rural communities and connecting homes and businesses and rural clinics and farms have the full suite of technological tools at their disposal to reach as many people as possible,” said Zachary Cikanek, national spokesperson for Connect Americans Now. “About 24 million Americans don’t have affordable and reliable broadband access. Of that number, the vast majority, over 19 million, are those who live in rural communities.”

In a survey conducted this summer, when explained what TVWS are and asked whether the vacant spectrum should be sold to the highest bidder or available for local providers to deploy rural broadband, 64 percent of voters believed they should be available for broadband, and only 11 percent said it should not be.

“If you’re trying to connect a community where there’s two to two hundred folks per square mile, the economics don’t necessarily provide the incentive needed to roll out, say a fiber optic cable, which can cost $30,000 a mile to lay,” said Cikanek. “If you can reach out to those homes and businesses with high speed wireless internet over TV White Spaces, it suddenly becomes possible to bring down that cost dramatically and reach a lot more homes and businesses and farms over just the next couple of years.”

There is already a pilot program that started in Kansas last year.

“Pioneer Communications has a pilot program in partnership with Microsoft serving households in Scott County, which is very exciting,” said Cikanek. “It’s an opportunity to show policymakers that this technology not only works, it’s capable of bringing down the cost of reaching folks in rural communities that would never otherwise be served.”

92 percent of respondents to the Connect Americans Now survey said internet access was important to their daily lives, with 53 percent classifying it as “extremely important.”

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