Internet ‘black holes’ spur a new fight over broadband

The difficulties with community service efforts remain substantial, however, a challenge that existing commercial telecommunications providers often emphasize.

Community Media is currently trying to raise $ 3 million for the first phase of its network plans, which would serve approximately 1,200 households across Adams County. Project leaders name a lot of upfront spending, with planning studies costing up to $ 50,000. You have already won grants for the past two years and worked with companies to conduct a feasibility study. Engineers have estimated that running fiber optic cable will cost $ 15,000 to $ 30,000 per mile. The total cost for the county could be between $ 50 million and $ 100 million, Gouker estimates.

Such infrastructure could revitalize the corridor and help move broadband along a local freeway that serves many adjacent businesses, as well as a local community college.

They have many potential sources of funding in their sights and see the federal pandemic aid approved in March as particularly promising. Other options have stalled. They hired an outside firm to handle what they thought was a complicated bidding process for an FCC rural broadband auction last year, but found they couldn’t win much. And the Department of Agriculture’s particularly low standards for broadband speeds has put them out of the running for federal aid from USDA programs, as Adams County is generally considered connected by those standards.

Some parts of the county will be money losers, they admit, but they say the benefits are more important, especially in the long run.

The broadband debate is in Washington mainly revolves around the role of the private sector versus the public sector.

Republicans oppose shutting down the private sector, even though they themselves are interested in providing connectivity to rural voters, who tend to vote Republicans. Adams County itself has usually leaned to the right, with Biden receiving just 32 percent of the vote last November. Republicans raised these broadband issues in an Oval Office meeting with Biden and Harris this spring to discuss infrastructure.

“You cannot have a scenario in which the federal government steps in and acts as your employer, serves as your mother, comes in and takes care of all of your needs,” said one attendee, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), Afterwards. “It’s priceless, it’s unhealthy.”

The White House’s emphasis on municipal broadband is “a source of great concern; it’s a way we don’t need to get started, ”said Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, Republican chief of the Senate Commerce Committee, in a mid-May interview during the Senate’s GOP infrastructure negotiations with the White House. “I think we can show that this is not a good approach because of competition and history.”

Instead, the GOP has top priority to streamline the approval process in order to make it easier for private Internet providers to expand broadband, especially in federal states. Republicans also often say that the federal government should better assemble and coordinate existing broadband subsidies, which run into the tens of billions of dollars, before launching many tens of billions more. They caution against funding projects that compete for business in areas that internet providers already claim to serve, which could hurt the industry’s investment in its own capital.

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