For Rural Communities, Broadband Expansion Is No Single Thing

Tourism runs the economy in the old mining town of Silverton, Colorado. From skiers in the winter to hikers and four-wheelers and mountain enthusiasts of all stripes in the summer – without tourism, the town of around 600 people has very little industry.And there is one resource the town is absolutely dependent on – the Internet.Most coffee shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops rely on the Internet to keep their business running — without it, owners can’t accept credit or debit cards. Without reliable, affordable Internet, rural communities have limited economic opportunities and lack access to education, healthcare, and many other services.The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November of 2021, provides grants to states for broadband expansion to provide accessible, high-speed Internet especially to rural communities. States, local governments, and nonprofits are now tasked with finding ways to use the currently available funding to bring broadband to residents.Broadband expansion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said Adrianne Furniss, director of the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, referencing the importance of executing this enormous infrastructure project correctly. Past generations have created the highway system and brought electricity to most of the country. Broadband — high-speed, reliable Internet — is the highway system of the 21st century.The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $42.45 billion for broadband deployment in rural areas. Furniss is concerned about spending the money wisely for this major infrastructure project.T …

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