Bridging the Digital Divide: It’s time to meet the evolving needs of rural communities
Tech leaders address urgent connectivity needs in Rural America at House Subcommittee Hearing on Communication and Technology this week in Washington.
Rural communities across the United States are raising their voices, underscoring the importance of access to high-speed internet. This week’s House Subcommittee for Communications and Technology meeting brought in several tech leaders for a hearing on the future of rural broadband funding.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working on expanding high-speed internet access in rural America since 2018, investing over a billion dollars in various projects. Recently, the USDA allocated $700 million to 22 states to further connect rural residents, farmers, and business owners.
“Our rural communities know to ask for fiber because other technologies failed. However, fiber is the most expensive to deploy,” said Sara Nichols, Senior Planner at the Land of Sky Regional Council of Government.
Nichols went on to highlight recent funding opportunities, such as the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as a chance to alleviate connectivity issues. The expansion of fiber networks empowers rural areas to compete on equal footing with urban counterparts and lays the groundwork for other technological advancements.
“We need more funding to build fiber not just in the last mile but also middle-mile networks that connect our communities,” she said, calling on Congress to support broadband programs and digital equity initiatives in recognition that the work is far from over and needs meet the evolving needs of rural communities.