Broadband as Infrastructure:
Is it any less critical than roads, bridges, and electricity?

National Infrastructure Week is just around the corner.  Yes, there actually is such a thing!

From May 14th through the 21st,  will celebrate its 6th National Infrastructure Week; bringing awareness to the need for the maintenance of existing, and construction of new infrastructure that will keep the wheels of progress turning. According to the organization, it’s #TimeToBuild!

During the next 2 weeks we’ll look at how our country’s infrastructure developed and what we need to do going forward.

Courtesy of Green Mountain Power

Electricity Infrastructure

Alabama, Maine, and Missouri, OTELCO’s three primary locations, saw their first electricity in limited locations as early as 1880, however it wasn’t until the New Deal and the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 that most electrical companies and co-ops were founded to deliver electricity on a broad scale.  In spite of government subsidies, many rural locations were still without electricity as late as the 1950s.

Transportation Infrastructure

infrastructure weekThe story was similar with paved roadways; in 1904, 93% of the US 2,151,570 miles of rural public roadways were dirt. It wasn’t until 1916 that the Federal Aid Road Act provided for government funding for construction of rural; post roads and doubled the miles of surfaced roads between 1914 and 1926. Over the years, right up to present day, a series of Federal Acts to provide roadway infrastructure funding has become commonplace.

In the case of electricity and road construction, many municipalities and states attempted to develop the infrastructure on their own prior to the federal programs.  While many were successful, ultimately, this was not a sustainable model for the country as a whole.

Based on this snippet of history, one can conclude 2 things where transportation and electrical infrastructure are concerned:

  • Electricity and improved roadways are critical to the economic growth of rural America
  • Without federal government support rural America would be left in the dark ages, literally

Today’s infrastructure challenge is broadband connectivity in rural America. 

According to the 2016 FCC Broadband Progress Report (the most recent available):

  • 10 percent of all Americans (34 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.
  • 39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
    • By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.
    • The availability of fixed terrestrial services in rural America continues to lag behind urban America at all speeds:  20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.

Next week a look at how Broadband Infrastructure is being facilitated around the country.