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President Signs Two Orders to Boost Rural Broadband

Randy Sukow Jan 9, 2018

President Trump acted immediately after yesterday’s release of a report from the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. He signed two executive orders aimed at tearing down bureaucratic barriers to rural broadband construction, one of the recommendations from the task force report.

“The task force heard from farmers that broadband internet access is an issue of vital concern to their communities and businesses,” Trump said during a speech yesterday to the American Farm Bureau convention in Nashville, TN. “That is why today, in a few minutes, I will take the first step to expand access to broadband internet in rural America, so you can compete on a level playing field, which you were not able to do.” Trump signed the orders on stage after the speech.

Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association, was in Nashville yesterday to view the president’s speech. “Understandably given our members’ focus on getting and keeping rural communities connected, we at NTCA leapt at first to the prominence of ‘e-connectivity’ and its foundational importance for other initiatives identified in the report,” she said in a blog post. “It was also terrific to see live and in-person the President sign an executive order and presidential memorandum aimed at speeding deployment of broadband networks in rural areas.”

The first order directs the “executive branch to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America, including rural homes, farms, small businesses, manufacturing and production sites, tribal communities, transportation systems, and healthcare and education facilities.”

Specifically, the order calls for policies to reduce the cost of capital investment and red tape blocking construction. It also calls for standardized contract rules for promoting wireless facilities on federal property.

The second order directs federal agencies to adopt policies promoting tower construction for wireless broadband on federal lands. “Lowering the costs of broadband deployment to rural areas can strengthen the business case for broadband facilities deployment and therefore amplify investments in broadband infrastructure.  To that end, the executive branch will seek to make Federal assets more available for rural broadband deployment, with due consideration of national security concerns,” it says.

Trump focuses the order on the Department of Interior to develop a plan to build as many tower facilities as practically possible. “[Interior]” shall draft model terms and conditions for use in securing tower facilities and other infrastructure assets for broadband deployment,” the order says.

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