Congressman Marsha Blackburn Discusses Rural Broadband


July 21, 2017

The FCC estimates that nearly 40 million Americans, including 39% of rural Americans, don’t have access to what the Commission defines as ideal broadband service (25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload). Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who represents Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, joined us live on the set of “Market Day Report” today to discuss what might be done to help bridge the divide.

Rep. Blackburn explained the importance of broadband access for rural America: “If you want to see economic growth in rural America, if you want to bring back manufacturing, rural America has got to have access to broadband. That is why, in my role as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, this is my number one priority – developing that template, getting that plan in place, deciding what the speed is going to be, addressing latency issues, and deploying broadband to unserved areas – because that is how you get economic development. That is how you get access to 21st century healthcare – and keep the local hospital there, and open – and that is how you increase educational opportunities for our children, and also how you participate in re-training the workforce for 21st century jobs.”

But Congressman Blackburn also underscored the fact that expanding broadband access to rural Americans has broader impacts upon the economy as whole. “Yes, you need it for agriculture and for farming,” she reiterated, “where you can utilize additional information – not only for markets, but for irrigation, for crops, for planting, things of that nature – but you also need it for the additional economic development. Logistics is important – for farm-to-market crops and items that are for trade and export. So, that economic development component plays into it.“

She continued, “Hospitals are big employers in rural communities, and you want to keep the healthcare closest to you. Most companies, when they’re looking at counties and places to locate, what do they say? ‘You have to have a hospital. You have to have schools.’ And they want to make certain that is available for the workforce right there in the community. So, broadband is the primary infrastructure issue for the 21st century.”

Rep. Blackburn went on to discuss the rural-urban divide, potential funding, and other related broadband issues, and she also talked a bit about her long-time involvement with 4-H. Watch the video above to see the entire interview.