January 19, 2018

Forum in Bismarck Examines North Dakota’s Digital Divide

Just one week after its national launch, Connect Americans Now (CAN) hosted a community forum with U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer on the coalition’s plan to unleash new technology that promises to help eliminate North Dakota’s digital divide by 2022.

“From students to small business owners and farmers, life on the wrong side of the digital divide is a daily struggle for many people in America,” said Cramer, Chairman of the House Rural Broadband Caucus. “That is why we are leading the charge to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows TV white space technology to deliver broadband in underserved areas, and I am thrilled to join with rural advocates like CAN who are working to cast a spotlight on this important issue.”

To provide affordable and reliable service in rural communities, CAN seeks to deploy a combination of “wired” and “wireless” technologies, including fiber-based, satellite and wireless technologies, leveraging a range of frequencies including TV white spaces. To make this plan a reality, CAN is urging the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country, with additional TV white spaces in smaller markets and rural areas.

“A broadband connection is as pivotal as electricity in the 21st Century economy, but 23.4 million rural Americans are stuck in the dark,” said Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director of CAN. “Congressman Cramer has been an outstanding champion for this cause, and we are grateful for his leadership on efforts to deploy TV white space technology. This forum is a vital step toward raising awareness of technological solutions that will deliver broadband to thousands of North Dakotan families, and we look forward to a continued dialogue with members of the Rural Broadband Caucus and other leaders on this important issue.”

Implications of the Digital Divide in North Dakota and Around the U.S. 

  • 6.5 million students lack access to high speed internet, but 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection. More than 38,000 North Dakota students reside in rural areas, where more students struggle to keep up with their assignments and fail to learn the computer skills they need to succeed and enter college or the workforce.
  • Telemedicine could collectively save lives and millions of dollars annually for underserved patients and rural hospitals that pay up to three times more for broadband than their urban counterparts. 90 percent of North Dakota’s hospitals are in rural areas, and broadband connectivity could allow their patients, regardless of where they live, to access specialists and benefit from advanced monitoring services that would normally require hours of travel for patients or their providers.
  • North Dakota is home to more than 30,000 farms, and broadband access could bring them promise of precision agriculture, including remote monitoring equipment that helps farmers save money by optimizing irrigation, conserving resources and increasing yields. It also allows farmers to search for new customers, find buyers willing to pay higher prices and identify the most affordable sources of seeds, fertilizers and farm equipment.
  • Small businesses employ 58 percent of North Dakota’s workforce, and broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling them to expand their customer base from local to global and attract new industries to rural communities.
  • High-speed internet supports workforce development by allowing rural job-seekers to access services online, develop new skills through cloud-based training and secure additional employment opportunities like remote teleworking. It will also allow rural communities to keep and attract new workers who require a broadband connection to carry out their daily responsibilities.

About Connect Americans Now 

Connect Americans Now is a group of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates and leading innovators committed to eliminating the digital divide that is holding back rural America. Our goal is to bring rural Americans who currently lack connectivity safe and affordable broadband access by 2022 so they can take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that exist in other communities.

President Trump Touts Rural Broadband, Wants ‘On-Time’ Farm Bill with Crop Insurance

President Trump’s speech on Monday afternoon to the American Farm Bureau focused on some new recommendations on ways to boost the rural economy.

The ideas come from the president’s Ag and Rural Prosperity Task Force, which was created by an executive order the day that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was confirmed last spring.

The president signed an executive order to streamline and expedite requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America. The president also signed a memorandum to support locating broadband towers on federal properties managed by the Department of Interior.

The president also acknowledged in his speech Monday that the farm bill expires later this year.

Trump said he was pleased to be the first president to speak to the group in more than 25 years.

President Trump’s support of a strong farm safety net isn’t surprising, considering his opinion of America’s farm and ranch families.  The President opened his remarks with these observations:

“We know that our nation was founded by farmers.  Our independence was won by farmers.  Our continent was tamed by farmers, so true.  Our armies have been fed by farmers and made of farmers.  And, throughout our history, farmers have always, always, always led the way….

The men and women in this room come from different backgrounds and from all across our land, but each of you carries the same title that’s been proudly borne by patriots and pioneers, inventers and entrepreneurs.  The title of, very proudly, American farmer.  Thank you very much.”

He also explained, “Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much.”

Assuming Congress agrees, rural America should expect a strong Farm Bill sooner rather than later.

National Crop Insurance Services