Rural Americans have been left in the dust of the modern technology age as the rest of the country speeds through the 21st Century. Today’s world lives on high-speed internet - fast access to online bill payments, online education, online tax filing, online job applications, online banking, and online entertainment streaming - while rural areas live and work off of generations-old internet connections, if any at all.
For too many of our rural neighbors, all of the normal features of everyday life for coastal Americans in big cities are still just a luxurious fantasy.
The good news is that President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are making progress to ensure that rural North Dakotans receive the high-speed broadband internet that coastal- and urban-Americans take for granted.
In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that 23 million rural Americans lacked sufficient access to broadband and their access to mobile broadband was nearly as dire. In their 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, the FCC noted that “(a)pproximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps.”
Scarce and sketchy broadband access is a real barrier to prosperity, especially in rural areas far removed from New York Stock Exchange or Washington, D.C.’s swamp. Lack of broadband stifles economic growth, prevents too many rural Americans from participating in the modern economy, and holds back commerce, education, and more.
President Trump is working to change that. The President’s infrastructure plan would dedicate $50 billion to rural infrastructure - 25 percent of all federal spending included in the plan. This money will be given directly to the states to spend as they deem fit, and North Dakota would have the resources to bulk up local internet accessibility. Under President Trump’s plan, states are allowed to spend as much as 100 percent of the federal funding they receive on expanding broadband access.
The announcement of President Trump’s infrastructure plan - which recognizes that broadband internet is as vital to the future of rural America as bridges and tunnels are to the urban sections of the country - came close on the heels of his Executive Order Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America, an executive order specifically targeted to patch rural America’s broadband black holes.
In the order, President Trump instructed the Federal Government “to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.”
President Trump’s plans to bring broadband to America’s breadbasket will change the lives of countless North Dakotans who live on hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland across the state and five tribal reservations. These Americans will no longer be forgotten, but that’s only if North Dakotans do their part to make sure the Democrats can’t obstruct President Trump.
That’s why we need to send more Republicans to Congress this November to ensure that President Trump’s infrastructure vision is fulfilled. We must send Republicans such as Rep. Kevin Cramer to the U.S. Senate in November so that the President has the support he needs to give rural North Dakota the high speed, broadband internet access that it deserves.
Like President Trump, Rep. Cramer understands just how vital broadband internet is in the 21st Century economy. Earlier in May, Rep. Cramer spearheaded a bipartisan letter to the FCC which was co-signed by more than 100 of his colleagues in the House. The letter addressed systemic funding challenges to the Universal Service Fund (USF), which promotes universal access to telecommunications utilities in the United States, including high-speed broadband in rural America. Cramer is also the founding co-chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus.
President Trump and Rep. Cramer go beyond talk and are taking action on broadband infrastructure. Progress is being made to accelerate rural North Dakota’s access to high-speed internet, and progress will come much faster with more pro-Trump Republicans in the Senate.
Once the dust of the midterm elections settles, North Dakota has a better chance to get up-to-speed with the rest of the country so long as President Trump’s success can continue.
Marc Lotter served as special assistant to the president and press secretary to the vice president. He is a member of the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Advisory Board.