Today too few rural Americans take advantage of the opportunities broadband provides. Only half of rural residents subscribe to broadband – compared to 65 percent nationwide – because too many communities in rural America don’t have adequate access to broadband infrastructure.
Simply put, building a broadband infrastructure is critical to creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America. With investments in broadband we are fostering innovation and bringing America’s rural communities into the digital age. A young person doesn’t have to move to the nearest city to make a living. He or she can create, develop and run a business at home, in rural America, and be successful. A young parent can work and raise a family and still connect with business partners across the country or around the world. With new or enhanced broadband access, the door to economic growth is open.
When broadband access reaches into rural communities:
* farmers and ranchers will have up-to-the-minute commodity and weather information to make the best decisions for their operations;
* schools can expand limited course offerings through distance learning – both advancing education and better preparing students to compete in the 21st century economy;
* first responders will have information they need to keep their communities safer;
* rural health care will improve, as medical specialists will be able to use telemedicine to provide advanced diagnosis for patients or to consult with colleagues at other hospitals.
At the Department of Agriculture, we are focused every day creating thriving rural communities where people want to live and raise families. We want every parent and grandparent in rural America to be able to look their child or grandchild in the eye and tell them that their home town has the economic opportunities necessary to offer them a bright future.
The Obama Administration recently announced investment in 66 new Recovery Act broadband projects nationwide, the second round of funding for broadband infrastructure from President Obama’s Recovery Act. Thirty-seven of these new projects will help expand broadband access in rural America. These projects will not only directly create over 5,000 jobs up front, but spur economic development in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities, creating jobs for years to come.
These funds will put people to work constructing new facilities, erecting towers to transmit signals and high speed broadband services installed in homes, businesses and community education, safety and public health centers. But the investments will also foster long term economic growth. The $7.5 billion provided by the Recovery Act to help expand broadband will benefit tens of millions of Americans and over 685,000 businesses, 900 healthcare facilities and 2,400 schools in all 50 states.
We will see the impact of broadband locally when the XIT Rural Telephone Cooperative project moves forward with deploying fiber to areas in the Northwest Texas panhandle. The project, announced previously, is funded through the USDA Rural Utilities Service and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The cooperative will utilize a combination of Fiber-to-the-Premise technology and copper based technology to provide broadband, voice and video services to Dalhart and Stratford and the surrounding communities. XIT is committed to providing high-quality, reliable service to its customers for both voice and broadband data and has developed a network design to best serve their customers.
President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law with a vision of knowing it will help America. In addition to the jobs it will create and save in Texas and across the country, it will stimulate the national economy. In the longer-term, it is the foundation for sustainable growth and keeping us competitive within the global economy.
Valentin is USDA Rural Development Texas State Director.