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Governors target diverse strategies to build rural broadband capacity, spur economic growth

February 08, 2018

With more than 30 percent of rural America still lacking access to what the FCC considers adequate broadband, governors from across the country are working toward diverse strategies to build rural broadband capacity. By providing rural communities with access to full-speed, stable broadband, these governors hope that they can revitalize rural communities by helping small business formation and expansion as well as improve educational achievement/workforce training for rural citizens. Governors have announced new initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wyoming, and in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is calling for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule changes to increase access to broadband internet across the country.

Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder signed Executive Order 2018-2, which directs the Michigan Consortium for Advanced Networks to identify gaps in broadband service coverage and capacity, current efforts underway to address connectivity issues, and key strategies and recommendations for the state and private sector to pursue to achieve enhanced connectivity. The Consortium must present a plan by August 1, and after completion of the roadmap, they will be tasked with implementing the first-year priorities.

Missouri

In Missouri, Gov. Eric Greitens announced that the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) in partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture is launching a new statewide initiative to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Greitens has proposed the creation of a Missouri Rural Broadband Manager to lead the effort and serve as a liaison between federal, state, regional and local broadband discussions.

Last year, Greitens implemented a $45 million program intended to help Missouri’s public schools to improve or build the infrastructure necessary to provide the state’s K-12 students with access to quality internet at school.

North Carolina

To “cut through bureaucracies,” Gov. Roy Cooper launched Hometown Strong, a new program with a team that will help rural counties track down funding from state, federal and nonprofit sources to address the digital divide. The team also will provide expertise to rural communities on what projects are needed and can reasonably be attained. Two members of the team have already been appointed to lead the team – Pryor Gibson and Mary Penny Kelley.

Wisconsin

In his state of the state, Gov. Scott Walker called on the FCC to finalize new rules that will lead to advancements in TV white space technology that can be used to increase access to broadband internet in rural communities. Walker highlighted that the state budget includes $35.5 million in FY 2017-2019 for broadband expansion that the state would make available to Wisconsin’s internet service providers to deploy TV white space technology. 

TV white space essentially is unused airwaves left by the termination of analog television as digital was implemented. Through a router-type device, rural residents would be able to access full-speed internet service via existing traditional satellite, fixed wireless, and fiber optic connections.  This would reduce the need for telecommunication companies to fund the deployment of new internet-specific cables in rural areas.

Wyoming

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed an executive order that directs the Department of Transportation to look at how it might facilitate the installation of broadband conduits while highways are being built or repaired. Based upon recommendations from the state’s Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (EDNOW) council, the goal is to reduce the cost of deployment through a “one dig” policy. Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) Director Bill Panos is now tasked with how to apply this directive to existing and future projects across the state.

 

Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyomingbroadband