The Wall Street Journal recently published a letter to the editor from NRECA CEO Jim Matheson emphasizing the need for a significant federal investment in rural broadband infrastructure, including grants and loans. Matheson urged Congress to make rural broadband deployment a priority. NRECA is urging Congress to provide at least $2.5 billion for rural broadband in the fiscal year 2018 spending package. Below is Matheson’s letter:
Regarding your editorial “Trump’s Big Public Works Dig” (Feb. 13): Congress should prioritize rural broadband deployment in any infrastructure package. Access to broadband is essential for education, health care and business, including access to global markets. But at least 23 million rural Americans lack access to high-speed internet. Rural America already faces stiff economic challenges. Less than 15 percent of American businesses are located in rural areas and small towns. Inadequate high-speed internet access is making the problem worse and contributing to the exodus of talented, young people. The convergence of new technology and partnerships has made rural broadband deployment more achievable than ever, but high costs remain the biggest obstacle. The widening digital divide is a national crisis deserving a national response. A federal grant and loan package—using funding from the budget agreement—is necessary to stop the rural decline and connect rural America. – Jim Matheson CEO, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Arlington, Va.