Rural Outreach Initiative: Broadband

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Inadequate broadband access is restraining many rural communities from strengthening their economies as the absence of broadband makes a community a less attractive location for residents, new investment and development.  Broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity as affordable high-speed broadband will soon become almost as important as water and electricity.

  • NAR’s Political Advocacy:  Realtors® support a comprehensive national policy to stimulate the deployment of broadband in underserved areas of the U.S., increase data speeds and lower broadband prices.
  • NAR’s Rural Broadband White Paper:  explores the crucial nature of this issue as it relates to the real estate industry and provides a brief history of deploying broadband in the United States, an overview of the current federal framework for encouraging broadband deployment, and summaries of a number of state regulatory strategies that stand out from the crowd, both positively and negatively.

Webinars & Podcasts

Can the Broadband Gap in Rural America be Closed?
Inadequate broadband access is restraining many rural communities from strengthening their economies as the absence of broadband makes a community a less attractive location for residents, new investment and development.  But 24 million American households do not have reliable, affordable high-speed internet and 80 percent of these households are in rural areas.  Get an overview of the digital divide, its impact on real estate and communities and efforts underway to bridge the divide.   And hear from the REALTOR® Community on a state and local level to see how they are engaged in this effort.

Broadband Policy Webinar – NAR’s Smart Growth Advisory Board and the State & Local Issues Policy Committee joined together to discuss the latest state and federal Broadband policy activity.

Realtors a Voice for Property Owners as Colorado Advances Broadband – a Podcast featuring Elizabeth Peetz, Vice President of Government Affairs from the Colorado Association of REALTORS® (CAR) discussing the effect broadband has had on the Colorado real estate market and how CAR becomes involved in related legislation. She talks about recent changes in state law and the Association’s opinions on those changes

News & Resources

Sullivan, Maine, Crosses the Digital Divide – Small towns and rural regions throughout the United States lack access to high-speed internet (also called broadband). However, strategic outreach and advocacy efforts by local organizations and tech-savvy residents are helping overlooked communities — including Sullivan, Maine — get online.

How Grayson County Is Getting Connected –  Grayson County, Virginia, is scaling mountains to acquire high-speed internet and reliable cell phone services for its 15,000 residents (roughly half of whom are age 50-plus). When the ambitious undertaking is complete, the geographically vast but sparsely populated region will be one of the most connected rural counties in the nation.

Emergency Broadband Benefit – What you need to know and how to help the FCC get it right for rural. A new program to help more people afford to stay connected to the Internet during the pandemic is making its way to the public.

Broadband Task Force Aims to Bridge the Digital Divide  – With more people working and attending school from home, and relying on the internet for remote healthcare because of COVID-19, the digital divide has never been more apparent. The National Association of Counties is partnering with diverse groups to address broadband service gaps.

Broadband and Rural America – provides some insight on both the challenges of the current broadband issue along with policy actions worth considering. We make the case that universal access to broadband is foundational to the future vitality of rural communities and for that matter all communities across America.

Under Social Distancing, Rural Regions Push for More Broadband: Rural America sees a chance to build out its broadband infrastructure using the momentum of coronavirus federal aid.

American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report February 2019” from USDA highlights steps for the federal government to take to increase broadband access and increase private-sector investments in broadband. The report includes broadband and mobile broadband deployment and adoption in the U.S. and offers statistics by urban, rural, and tribal lands, and provides recommendations discussing strategies, objectives, and overcoming barriers to increase broadband in urban and rural areas and tribal lands.

e-Connectivity Toolkit – USDA High-Speed Broadband e-Connectivity Resource Guide: a toolkit to help support the deployment of high-speed broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. The e-Connectivity Toolkit features 27 USDA programs that support broadband deployment.

ReConnect Program, a pilot program authorized by the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018 to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband.

Environmental Protection Agency: Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities – Smart growth strategies can help rural communities achieve their goals for growth and development while maintaining their distinctive rural character.

Cool & Connected:  a technical assistance program to help rural communities find new economic opportunities by providing planning assistance for sustainable downtown development and investments in reliable, high-speed internet access.  Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service, EPA, and the Appalachian Regional Commission

Many Rural Communities Still Can’t Connect: The global coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have made high-speed internet (also known as broadband) a must-have service for shopping, attending school, staying informed and actually seeing loved ones. Web access can be a key to receiving medical care and, for many, remaining employed. But for millions living in rural and remote places, reliable internet access simply doesn’t exist.

Broadband First Responders: Libraries, Schools, and ISPs Open Wi-Fi Hotspots for Students: As more people struggle to get Internet access for remote work and schooling, the pandemic has exposed digital inequality in the nation. In an effort to help communities, several libraries, schools, and ISPs are now providing free Wi-Fi hotspots. Although it is not a permanent solution to bridge the homework gap, these Wi-Fi hotspots will still give a chance to students to learn while schools are shut down.

Broadband & Telephone Service Providers Roll Out Additional Ways to Help Consumers During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The FCC Chairman today commended broadband and telephone service providers that have responded to his call to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and have gone even further to enhance Americans’ connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic.  Last week, Chairman Pai specifically asked companies with low-income broadband programs to expand and improve them and those without to adopt such programs.  He also called on broadband providers to relax their data usage limits in appropriate circumstances and take steps to promote remote learning and telehealth.

USDA, FCC, and NTIA Submit Rural Broadband Coordination Report to Congress:  This report summarizes how USDA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are working together to deploy broadband to rural areas.

Broadband & Telephone Service Providers Roll Out Additional Ways to Help Consumers During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The FCC Chairman today commended broadband and telephone service providers that have responded to his call to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and have gone even further to enhance Americans’ connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic.  Last week, Chairman Pai specifically asked companies with low-income broadband programs to expand and improve them and those without to adopt such programs.  He also called on broadband providers to relax their data usage limits in appropriate circumstances and take steps to promote remote learning and telehealth.

Governors Commit to Broadband as Critical Infrastructure in State of the States: The nation’s governors are delving into their varied policy priorities for the coming year, but a new shared reality is emerging: Governors are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the Internet.

Rural Broadband Deployment: Strategies for Closing the Digital Divide – explores the explore the crucial nature of this issue as it relates to the real estate industry. It will also provide a brief history of deploying broadband in the United States, an overview of the current federal framework for encouraging broadband deployment, and summaries of a number of state regulatory strategies that stand out from the crowd, both positively and negatively.

Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era – 72.7% of fiber optic Internet access available in rural areas is provided by cooperatives.  This report has been updated  with new data, a map showing planned service areas, and personal stories illustrating how co-ops have drastically impacted local life by connecting residents to broadband.

Accessing the Internet in Rural America – Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy weighs in on how rural areas lag behind urban areas in gaining high-speed internet access by analyzing recent data, including subscription rates and how it impacts rural development.

“From Crops to Co-ops” Animated Video Series, The Cooperative Option – It’s been a journey of discovery for the folks in “Villageville,” our fictional rural community where Internet access isn’t meeting the needs of residents or businesses. In Episode 5 of “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!”, we learn more about the work rural cooperatives are doing for communities across the country.

New Hampshire Bill Will Allow Multi-Town Broadband System – A common issue with rural broadband expansion is small towns not having enough leverage to establish better Internet service. But legislation could turn the tables, giving communities the authority to form a unified district.

Broadband Deployment: Status and Federal Programs – Congressional Research Service addresses the availability of broadband in rural, urban, and tribal areas of the U.S.; percent of households with broadband; and federal programs supporting broadband development and adoption.

Impact of Broadband on Property Values – research showing access to a fast Internet connection is an important determinant of capitalization effects in property markets and the impact of fiber-based broadband service availability on real estate values.

Digital gap between rural and nonrural America persists  – Rural Americans have made large gains in adopting digital technology over the past decade, but they generally remain less likely than urban or suburban adults to have home broadband or own a smartphone.

Blue Dogs Call for Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to Expand Broadband Internet AccessRepresentatives Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., co-chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation, joined with Representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., their counterparts on the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity, Tuesday to call for bipartisan legislation to expand high-speed broadband internet “to all corners of our nation.”

How Fast Is Rural Internet? Consumers Are Asked to Fill in the Gaps: A collaboration of three national rural nonprofits hopes to create a more accurate picture for researchers and advocates to use to see how their communities measure up.

New Broadband Bills — Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) earned quick praise from telecom industry trade groups for his new Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, filed Thursday with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The measure would compel an agreement among the FCC, NTIA and USDA to coordinate on federal broadband subsidies. A bipartisan group of senators including Klobuchar also reintroduced the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, which would mandate a federal study on — what else — the impact of broadband on the U.S. economy.

NAR Supports Broadband Interagency Coordination Act: On May 6 NAR sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee expressing its support for S. 1294, the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act.  This legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enter into a memorandum of understanding to coordinate the distribution of federal funds for broadband deployment. Such an agreement would reduce overbuilding and ensure funds are targeted to unserved and underserved areas.

USDA Opens Application for Rural Broadband Infrastructure Program –  These funds will enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service.

Why Did Arkansas Change Its Mind on Municipal Broadband?  Eight years after banning cities and towns from building high-speed internet networks, state lawmakers unanimously reversed course. Will more red states follow?

Are State Legislatures Wising Up about Broadband Co-ops?  Co-ops offer several advantages for rural communities attempting to improve broadband connectivity. But large telcos don’t like them. North Carolina has loosened its restrictions on co-ops. Will other states follow?

Do Not Pass Go: a documentary that features the city of Wilson, North Carolina and neighboring Pinetops.  After Wilson’s repeated requests for improved broadband were denied by the big cable company, they built their own fiber-optic network.  This film explores one avenue for communities to improve their Internet access – building and operating a citywide network offering Internet access directly to all residents and businesses.

National Association of Counties (NACo), Rural LISC and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have partnered to address the critical need for high-speed internet for rural communities across the country.  They developed a mobile app that harnesses grassroots advocacy by empowering individual users to accurately identify areas with low or no internet connectivity.  Help identify areas with low or no connectivity to help ensure adequate funding for broadband infrastructure. Read the press release  and NACo’s flyer: “Bridging the Economic Divide.”

Organizations & Agencies

  • Community Networks: provides information on how communities are investing in their own Internet infrastructure to promote economic prosperity and improve quality of life.
  • NTIA: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), located within the Department of Commerce, is responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.
  • FCC: The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation.  This includes promoting competition, innovation and investment in broadband services and facilities.