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Big League Economics

Van Voorhis: FCC needs to bring same broadband to rural Americans that urban Americans enjoy



The 2016 election, which catapulted President Donald J. Trump into office largely because of unexpected support from rural communities, represents nothing less than a mandate for the federal government to do everything it can to close the immense divide between urban and rural Americans.

One of the most pressing issues rural Americans face today is a lack of basic, affordable internet access, 34 million people in the U.S. still don’t have broadband internet access — defined as having download speeds of 25 megabits per second — according to the Federal Communications Commission–about 23.4 million live in rural parts of the U.S.

Access to the internet is one of the least expensive ways for rural Americans to be connected to the rest of the country, and to the rest of our increasingly global society. Think of how often you access the internet – whether it’s to check driving directions, to find a quick answer to a pressing issue, or even to get a package delivered to your door in a matter of hours.

Now imagine that you did not have the capability to do that at any second of the day from your smartphone or computer. Imagine if you were cut off from all of the world’s information overnight. How would your life change?

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Urban Americans like ourselves take this for granted. I know I do.

Unfortunately, this is the predicament that tens of millions of rural Americans find themselves in on a daily basis, and only furthers the divide between the haves and the have-nots in our society.

If this is a truly a problem, then something must be done about it. Liberals like Hillary R. Clinton have proposed that the federal government spend billions of your tax dollars to allow people to access the internet. As conservatives, we believe that the best solution to problems in society is almost always to have government get out of the way, instead of using its power to craft a ‘solution’ that often represents anything but that.

We need a smarter alternative, and in this case, the best opportunity is for government to recognize that it is not the solution, but the problem.

The Foundation for Economic Education reported that many of these “frequencies are not being used, causing certain channels to be ‘white spaces’ — channel-less and wasted. According to research, there is a notable range — the 600 megahertz bandwidth — that offers three spaces for this new television to internet signal conversion.”

If the FCC simply loosens its regulation of these ‘white spaces,’ private investment could easily bring affordable internet access to millions of rural Americans. Fortunately, a bipartisan group of over forty members of Congress have called on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to make the use of rural broadband through ‘”TV White Spaces” a priority as they begin the process of repacking broadcast stations after the recent broadcast spectrum auction.

Chairman Pai, a conservative who has been an advocate of decreased regulation during his tenure at the FCC, would be wise to use this free-market solution to solve the internet access problem, instead of a heavy-handed government intervention.

Peter Van Voorhis is a conservative activist, commentator and journalist. He is a weekly contributor to iHeartRadio’s PowerTalk 96.7FM.

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