Networking

FCC's Ajit Pai wants to put $500M towards rural broadband access

The announcement comes two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order promoting rural broadband creation and deployment.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed an order that would give small carriers over $500 million to deploy broadband in rural areas.
  • The proposal comes around two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an order expediting the federal permitting process for ISPs trying to deploy broadband in rural areas.

US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed an order that, if passed, would give internet cooperatives and small carriers over $500 million to bring broadband to rural areas, the FCC announced Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aiming to expedite federal permitting processes so internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to build infrastructure in rural areas faster. With 39% of rural residents lacking access to broadband internet, the legislative push could help bridge the connectivity gap.

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"Closing the digital divide is the FCC's top priority. A key way to reach this goal in rural America is updating the FCC's high-cost universal service program to encourage cooperatives and other small, rural carriers to build more online infrastructure," Pai said in the FCC announcement.

"With the $500 million in new funding provided by this order, we'll boost broadband deployment in rural America and put our high-cost system on a more efficient path, helping to ensure that every American can benefit from the digital revolution," he added.

The proposal also includes new rules to prevent abuse of the program and to increase its effectiveness, the announcement said. Specifics of the rules and reforms were not included.

Trump's order didn't provide funding for deployment efforts, so Pai's order may help smaller carriers afford to utilize the shortened permit processes and begin building.

Connecting more spaces could have wide business implications, including new markets for advertising and ISPs, and more people able to use connected devices. For business professionals, it could mean more living options for remote workers, potentially diversifying the tech talent pool.

However, it remains to be seen what effect the end of net neutrality could have on rural broadband. Currently, 21 states are suing the FCC over the ruling, which would allow carriers to throttle speeds or charge extra for some content. Rural internet access, which already may be slower than average, may see even slower rates.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Worapojfoto

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is a Multiplatform Reporter at TechRepublic.

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