This week, President Trump attended the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn., to announce the recommendations of the interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Secretary Wilbur Ross is a member of the Task Force, which was created by executive order in April 2017 to identify ways to boost economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America.
The cornerstone of the Task Force’s report is ensuring that rural America can connect to reliable and affordable broadband internet service. More than 24 million Americans live in rural communities that lack the infrastructure needed for high-speed connections, according to an analysis* by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Building out wired and wireless broadband infrastructure in these communities would promote economic development and job growth, extend the reach of health care and allow for smart agriculture applications that could increase productivity and profitability for U.S. farmers. It would also allow these communities to attract businesses, especially in the fast-growing advanced manufacturing industry.
Wireless infrastructure, including 5th generation (5G) mobile networks, is particularly important because of the potential of the internet of things (IOT) to transform manufacturing and agriculture. Advanced manufacturing has been a key focus area for the Administration, which has already begun to streamline permitting and remove unnecessary regulations in this area. These manufacturers will require robust connections for their facilities, so rural communities must have high-speed bandwidth to attract new plants or upgrades old ones to compete globally.
Agriculture is increasingly a more connected and information-dependent industry as well. Broadband can allow farmers to access weather data that can help them maximize the planting, watering and harvesting of their crops. Drones and sensors in the field can monitor crop conditions and wearable devices on livestock can monitor their health and breeding patterns.
The Administration is taking immediate steps to reduce barriers to deployment of broadband in rural America. An executive order released on Monday – Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America – instructs agencies to remove obstacles to capital investment and broadband services and more efficiently employ government resources. It also proposes using the GSA Common Form Application as a tool to streamline and expedite the review of requests to locate broadband facilities on federal property. The order contains key actions that will likely spur further investment, speed up deployment and decrease costs.
A separate Presidential memorandum issued Monday directs the Secretary of the Interior to increase access to tower facilities and other infrastructure assets managed by the Department, with the purpose of supporting rural broadband deployment and adoption. The availability of these facilities could help bring 5G to rural areas more quickly.
The Department of Commerce is committed to expanding broadband around the country and executing President Trump’s strategy for increasing rural prosperity. The Department is encouraging the growth of the internet of things, supporting broadband network buildouts, and maximizing the use of the country's spectrum resources.
Broadband connectivity is the foundation upon which more competitive, sustainable and prosperous rural communities can be built. The Trump Administration and the Commerce Department will continue to pursue all options to encourage the deployment of high-speed broadband.
*The analysis used data from the Federal Communications Commission’s June 2016 Form 477 collection, as well as population and geographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.