Broadband a necessity for rural America

Connecting rural areas to the grid

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.