Look to Local Firms for Better Rural Broadband
President Barack Obama recently traveled to Iowa to draw attention to several initiatives he said will help increase access to high-speed broadband for Americans across the country. The president rightly focused on how broadband-enabled communications have improved the quality of life for millions of Americans and how access to these technologies is no longer a luxury but a necessity of modern life. While I applaud Obama’s focus on increasing every American’s access to robust and affordable broadband, it’s not clear that encouraging local governments to build networks is the best path toward bringing more jobs and opportunity to rural Washington.
Among other things, the president’s plan would appear to require overriding state laws in roughly 20 states that currently limit municipalities in building their own networks and competing against private enterprise.
Instead of focusing on creating more government-run networks in marketplaces where private operators already exist, Obama and other federal policymakers should turn to the experts with decades of experience deploying and maintaining modern telecommunications infrastructure: community-based, independent telcos like ToledoTel, located in Toledo.
Nationwide, there are over 1,000 entrepreneurial technology providers like ToledoTel that serve over 4 million households in the most sparsely populated pockets of our country, deploying high-speed, high-quality broadband services.
For more than 60 years, these providers have gone above and beyond to build the infrastructure that allows our country’s most rural markets to access the same technologies found in our largest cities, including high-speed Internet, video and voice services today — and they’ve done it all under the extremely difficult financial and physical conditions that come with deploying technologies in rural and remote communities.
Thanks to the hard work and commitment of companies like ToledoTel, rural Washington now has access to affordable broadband in some of the most remote locations — places like Toledo, which now has gigabit fiber optic service.
Our fiber optic service is not limited to “anchor institutions” or a few lucky homeowners living in “fiberhoods,” it’s being provided to every business and residence in our 388-square-mile service area.
But the sustainability of those networks is at risk, and other areas need broadband as well. Policymakers in search of answers to these communications challenges in rural America should turn first to those who have shown they can get the job done time and again, rather than casting about for the next new thing, creating regulatory uncertainty and putting at risk significant investments already made in existing networks through the prospect of redundant or wasteful overbuilding.
There’s already a great broadband success story out there in rural Washington, and it is being written by community-based telecom providers like ToledoTel.
As our national broadband story progresses, we should strive to build upon proven initiatives and leverage existing efforts that are working, rather than pursue new uncharted pathways.
As Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015 8:54 pm, The Chronicle
Guest Commentary: Look to Local Firms for Better Rural Broadband By Dale Merten / Submitted to The Chronicle The Chronicle |