COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS
THE PROBLEM: Since 2000, the federal government has spent $95 billion to improve rural telecommunications. Yet tens of millions of rural and low-income urban households still rely on worn out, 1950s-era copper cabling that can’t even support reliable telephone service, let alone high-speed broadband.
THE SOLUTION: Federal and state governments can solve this problem once and for all with three common sense solutions: Invest in Robust Infrastructure. Encourage Competition. Require Accountability & Transparency.
THINK LONG TERM
Since 1990, internet demand has increased ten-fold every decade. In 2000 when VoIP phones were invented, 56 Kbps (0.056 Mbps) was typical. When Zoom launched in 2010, speeds had risen to 5-10 Mbps. Today, well-connected urban and suburban households can expect at least 100 Mbps. As augmented reality and immersive VR become more mainstream, that threshold will rise to 1000 Mbps by 2030. This trend shows no sign of slowing.
Broadband expansion must focus on “future-proof” networks that can support at least 30 years of growth. State and federal agencies should prioritize technologies like fiber-to-the-home that can handle 100,000 Mbps and beyond.
Providers say it costs too much to build a rural broadband network, but the demand is there. In regions where rural electric co-ops deployed fiber-to-the-home, subscription rates quickly reached 40%. A third of those subscribers chose the top tier speed. With demand like that, all it takes is a one-time capital subsidy to make rural broadband financially sustainable everywhere.
THREE PRINCIPLES FOR BROADBAND EXPANSION
- Tie payments to independent, public verification of work completed.
- Levy substantial penalties for overstating availability or performance.
- Require quarterly public reports, including detailed lists of addresses served/passed.
- Reverse the burden of proof for service area challenges by requiring the challenger to disclose pricing, subscriber information, and end-to-end performance test results.
- Establish national standards for network capacity, reliability, scalability, and support.
- Focus on technologies like fiber-to-the-home that can deliver 30-40 years of growth.
- Prioritize locations with less than 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up.
- Award funding to the best proposal based on capacity and reliability rather than lowest bidder.
- Enforce standards for capacity, reliability, and end-user support.
- Require open designs with enough capacity to let multiple providers compete on an even footing.
- In areas with only one existing provider, encourage competitors to apply for subsidies.
- Accept proposals from any entity with the capacity to deploy broadband, not just Eligible Telecommunications Carriers.
- Prioritize public-private partnerships.
- Do not block subsidies based on a single provider’s coverage claim.