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Taking Broadband to the Next Level

Posted by Brandon McBride, Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, USDA Rural Development in Technology
Sep 11, 2019
A technician installing cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations
A technician installs cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Getting broadband to unserved rural areas is one of the toughest challenges we face. It’s far easier to make a business case to serve 500 people per square mile than it is where there are only five people per square mile. Broadband is expensive to deploy through hundreds of miles of countryside, including mountains, canyons, forests and deserts. But that’s our challenge.

The Broadband Opportunity Council report the White House released today lays the groundwork to build on the tremendous success of deploying broadband under the Recovery Act, which helped USDA and the Commerce Department expand essential broadband service nationwide. Yet even with this historical investment, we have much more to do.

Our work with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Information Administration and about 25 federal agency representatives identified federal regulatory and funding barriers to broadband expansion. If we are to deploy broadband to the 50 percent of rural areas without access to high-speed service, we will need to work hard and work closely with our federal partners and private stakeholders to encourage buildout and adoption.

The rewards are great. For example, one of our Recovery Act broadband projects in Western North Carolina brings people off the mountain so they can use newly connected facilities in an old library, helps troops overseas watch their kids play baseball via a ballfield with internet access, and makes it easier for families to virtually visit Granny while she enjoys her chicken dinner at the local nursing home.

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service funds rural utilities across the country. Rural electric cooperatives, telecommunications systems and water and waste facilities have the connections and expertise in their communities to deliver services that increase the quality of life for rural residents. RUS borrowers have been and will continue to be the heroes that get the job done. So in the days ahead as we work toward implementing the goals spelled out in this report, I am looking for our rural stakeholders to offer guidance, expertise and partnership in delivering broadband in areas lacking high speed internet service.

Category/Topic: Technology

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Liz Ireland
Sep 21, 2015

This is all well and good, but I'm stuck on a farm in Northwest GA where I literally get 0.28 Mbps down on a copper wire line from Windstream which promises 4 Mbps. (Note the State of GA has already fined Windstream for this, which you would *think* would lead to changes, but it's been several years now and there are none to be seen.) I've begged the government, the FCC, the local electric coop, and Windstream itself and there is NO assistance to be had. I cannot run my business on 0.28 Mbps. I cannot. There has to be a better way, but I have no idea what it would be, given the recalcitrance of both the private and public sector. I am really TIRED of everyone making nice noises and NOTHING getting done.

Dr. Aaron D McCall
Sep 21, 2015

I am Dr. Aaron D. McCall, Managing Director for GetWiredAlabama a 17 county next generation broadband network seeking funding to build out the infrastructure. Please add me to you notification listserv. If you could provide a link to the report that you referenced will be helpful as well. Thank you.

Martin Katz, Ph.D.
Sep 21, 2015

If "Cable Television" is available, it should be allowed to compete for the downstream. Each channel is approximately 4Mbps. Allocating 10 channels per county should serve at least 50 homes with little equipment required.

Satellite downstream promises broadband speeds for the contiguous 48 states (up to 10Mbps, but subject to the load on the satellite).

Some providers also provide upstream service, some providers use the telephone for upstream service.

All high speed networks contain a choke-point that slows down transmission For cable service, the choke point is the shared cable from the user's equipment to the head-end, which reputable companies upgrade to always provide at least 1/2 of the promised service speed, even during peak use times.

For DSL (telephone lines) are often limited by the quality of the wiring from the user's equipment to the switching center (often degraded to the equivalent of Cat. 2 (or even Cat. 1) in rural areas (Cat. 5 is required for long wire runs).

Local broadcast works well for relatively flat areas. CDMA allows service at reduced speeds when the weather is bad. If each large city provides internet digital broadcast, this works as well as digital television broadcast. Here, each broadcast antenna is shared.

The limitations on Satellite internet are the load on the Satellite, throttling by the provider, and weather. But Satellite can be used in any location with a southern exposure.

Finally, depending on the quality of the electrical distribution network, the 60Hz lines can carry significant bandwidth. Again, this is shared with all users on the line to the sub-station (which contains a head-end).

Anne kristie
Sep 24, 2015

We people will see change.

Harrison Griffin
Sep 07, 2018

Montezuma County, Colorado suffers from lack of strong broadband signals outside of the city of Cortez, and the towns of dolores and Mancos. When signal strength is good, you are able to utilize your internet connection to surf the web, perform online tasks and stream available content. When signal strength is poor to nonexistent, you are not able to perform those tasks adequately if at all. If there is an opportunity for Montezuma County, Colorado to receive support through the Recovery Act or if the Broadband Opportunity Council could add Montezuma County to their list of areas to explore, I think many rural residents would be grateful for expanded broadband opportunities in our area.

Thank You for You Consideration

Ben Weaver
Sep 17, 2018

@Harrison Griffin - Thanks for the information on Montezuma County. We will make sure our Colorado staff have this on their list for consideration and discussion.

Mark Reed
Feb 25, 2019

As the owner of Shining Star Photo Booth, we encounter the lack of broadband in rural areas often. We provide photo booth rental for weddings and events in the Lancaster, Gettysburg, and York area of Central Pennsylvania. Many areas do not have high speed internet once you get into the more rural venues. Restored farms and barns are popular wedding venues for receptions. Our photo booth rentals rely on high speed internet to allow guests to share photos and videos. We often turn to cellular data connectivity.