Forum in Bismarck Examines North Dakota’s Digital Divide

By Rusty Halvorson
American Ag Network

Just one week after its national launch, Connect Americans Now (CAN) hosted a community forum with U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer on the coalition’s plan to unleash new technology that promises to help eliminate North Dakota’s digital divide by 2022.

“From students to small business owners and farmers, life on the wrong side of the digital divide is a daily struggle for many people in America,” said Cramer, Chairman of the House Rural Broadband Caucus. “That is why we are leading the charge to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows TV white space technology to deliver broadband in underserved areas, and I am thrilled to join with rural advocates like CAN who are working to cast a spotlight on this important issue.”

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, with additional TV white spaces in smaller markets and rural areas.

“A broadband connection is as pivotal as electricity in the 21st Century economy, but 23.4 million rural Americans are stuck in the dark,” said Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director of CAN. “Congressman Cramer has been an outstanding champion for this cause, and we are grateful for his leadership on efforts to deploy TV white space technology. This forum is a vital step toward raising awareness of technological solutions that will deliver broadband to thousands of North Dakotan families, and we look forward to a continued dialogue with members of the Rural Broadband Caucus and other leaders on this important issue.”

Implications of the Digital Divide in North Dakota and Around the U.S. 

  • 6.5 million students lack access to high speed internet, but 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection. More than 38,000 North Dakota students reside in rural areas, where more students 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. 90 percent of North Dakota’s hospitals are in rural areas, and broadband connectivity could allow their 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.
  • North Dakota is home to more than 30,000 farms, and broadband access could bring them 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.
  • Small businesses employ 58 percent of North Dakota’s workforce, and broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling them 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.

Read the original post in the American Ag Network.


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