Monday, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order and a presidential memorandum which together will increase broadband availability for rural Americans. The memo to Secretary Zinke directs the Department of the Interior to develop a plan to allow private high-speed broadband companies to co-locate their equipment on Interior infrastructure. With Interior owning as much as 83 percent of the land in some western states, this move is expected to make it more accessible and affordable for companies to provide broadband to rural Americans.
“The Department of the Interior owns and manages hundreds of millions of acres of land across the rural west. From grazing lands in Nevada and Wyoming to reservation lands in Arizona or Oklahoma, we cover a lot of ground and it requires a lot of infrastructure. The President and I think private companies should be able to use that infrastructure if it’s for the public good,” said Secretary Zinke. “President Trump’s order will help bridge the digital divide for the millions of Americans who live in rural areas. Whether it’s a student taking a class via distance learning, a small clinic practicing telemedicine, or a mom-and-pop garage small business using e-commerce platforms, expanding high-speed broadband access will have incredible benefits for rural America.”
According to the FCC, nearly 23 million Americans in rural parts of the country currently lack access to broadband. In modern society, this cuts them off from many services and economic opportunities. As highlighted in the President’s Rural Prosperity Report, the rural broadband industry supported nearly 70,000 jobs and over $100 billion in commerce. Through the Department of the Interior’s work on the Rural Prosperity Task Force and by direction from the President, we are dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. Government is creating an environment that helps, not hinders, the deployment of broadband services to rural Americans.