Brian Dahle: Rural broadband expansion gets federal help (opinion)
For people like me who don’t live near city centers, quality internet service is hard to come by. This digital divide for people in rural areas has major consequences including a lack of jobs, which depend on a strong internet connection, and a lack access to education. I have worked to solve the problem in California and the federal government just lent a welcome helping hand.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed my bill to help close the internet gap. The measure more than doubles the amount of money used by the California Advance Services Fund to pay for broadband infrastructure projects to under-served areas.
Internet access is dependent on infrastructure and rural areas will now have more money for building things like modern communications towers which can provide fast and reliable wireless internet.
Along with my bill, President Trump recently issued an executive order to help rural Americans get faster internet. The executive order streamlines approvals and allows internet service providers to use U.S. Department of Agriculture land and facilities for building new broadband towers.
There’s no single easy solution to increasing broadband access, but putting federal assets to use to serve neighboring communities will remove a major roadblock to improving rural networks.
Faster internet access is a necessary tool for growing the economy. Companies who depend on downloading and uploading large amounts of data will be able to set up operations outside of cities.
Architects, for example, depend on transferring large digital blueprint files. With access to broadband internet, they will have the flexibility to do business in rural areas, bringing jobs and opportunity to the community.
Higher internet speeds also will allow rural students to access online courses and educational videos. This year’s budget commits funds to develop the state’s first online community college. The growing trend of online education makes it more important than ever to make sure young people have access to the same to high speed internet as the rest of the state.
Broadband internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. In the California economy, information travels at the rate of megabytes per second. For most of the state, internet speeds have kept up with the pace of technology.
For the forgotten few in rural communities, the internet is not available at all or only provided at slow speeds. With my bill and the new executive order, rural Californians will finally have the same access to education and job opportunities as the rest of the state.
Brian Dahle is the Republican leader in the California State Assembly, where he represents the 1st District.