Recently I received a letter from our member of Congress, H. Morgan Griffith, regarding some questions I had for him about broadband access. I appreciate that he noted that “many families and businesses in rural areas of the country, including parts of the Ninth District,… need access to fast and reliable broadband.” Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step to solving it.
Unfortunately, Mr. Griffith’s solution to this pressing problem is to request greater funding from President Trump in a hazy, vague infrastructure investment. When I was in middle school and we learned about how the U.S. government functioned, it was the House of Representatives which had the sole right to propose new funding bills. When rural areas of this country, like Pulaski County, did not have electricity and phone service the government stepped up and provided the necessary funds to seed rural co-operatives to provide electricity and phone service (see https://eh.net/encyclopedia/rural-electrification-administration/).
This Congress could provide the funding to expand rural broadband and replicate the “most immediate and profound successes in the history of federal policy-making for the national economy.” Creating new broadband co-operatives not only will provide much needed access to internet services but can spur significant economic growth. (For an example of a broadband cooperative see https://ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2016/04/rs-fiber-report-2016.pdf) Many people and businesses looking to locate to the Ninth District will use broadband availability to determine where they look. It’s one of the reasons myself and Tim Goff are in the town of Pulaski and not the county. And people who already live in Pulaski County could benefit from access to reliable internet in countless ways, including but not limited to, accessing educational and job training or starting their own businesses.
Furthermore, he failed to answer my actual question since all of his letters are clearly pre-written forms (I’ve received his ACA letter twice.) My questions were about the new administration’s failure to expand the Lifeline program to help pay for broadband for low-income individuals and the E-Rate Program which provides broadband access and equipment for schools and libraries. The FCC has an important role to play in ensuring fair access for consumers and to continue these important programs. However, it appears Mr. Griffith cares more about the companies that provide this service over public airwaves and through public land than his constituents. Just yesterday he voted to allow these companies to sell your private data without your consent. (http://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/3/28/15089396/house-republican-privacy-bill). Yet another reason a rural co-operative would be a great use of public money and space, beyond increased access.