Democratic Presidential Candidates Reveal Rural Broadband Proposals

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Three Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — each called Wednesday for major investments in broadband deployment as part of their rural-focused initiatives.

Warren’s plan calls for creating an alternative to private internet access — publicly-owned broadband. In a post on Medium called, “My Plan to Invest in Rural America,” Warren proposes passing federal legislation that would allow municipalities to build their own broadband networks. Then, she would create an Office of Broadband Access under the Department of Economic Development to oversee an $85 billion federal grant program that builds out the needed infrastructure. Electricity and telephone cooperatives, non-profits, tribes, cities, counties, and state subdivisions are the only groups that can apply for these funds, reported gizmodo.

To be clear, her proposal would shut out large telecoms like AT&T and Verizon. “I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford,” Warren wrote in the post. “That means publicly-owned and operated networks — and no giant ISPs running away with taxpayer dollars.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly tweeted a response without naming Warren specifically: “I know it’s silly season in D.C., but any proposal that squeezes out private sector, favors one technology, promotes overbuilding, or pushes greater socialism is [a] non-starter.” He added the agency is, “working hard to facilitate private sector broadband deployment to all Americans.”  

Gillibrand and Klobuchar, too, propose improving access to broadband internet in rural areas. Klobuchar’s campaign proposal said she has made, “a commitment to connect every household in America to the internet by 2022,” according to Roll Call.

Gillibrand is proposing a $60 billion investment in rural broadband. “I will get the job done working with private providers, states, rural electric cooperatives, broadband cooperatives and community broadband networks,” she said. “This investment will be directed by detailed, accurate broadband service maps that reflect actual service availability.”

August 9, 2019     

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