White House Defends Lack of Direct Rural Broadband Investment

Amid criticism that President Trump's infrastructure spending plan -- $200 billion meant to seed more than $1 trillion in ultimate public/private investment -- earmarked no money specifically for rural broadband, the White House Friday was trying to explain just how rural broadband access would benefit from the plan.

For one thing, the White House press office pointed out in a fact sheet sent to reporters, the President has already paved the digital highway, as it were, with an executive order streamlining requests to locate rural broadband facilities.

To the point of no money designated specifically for rural broadband -- the plan includes a $50 billion investment in rural infrastructure generally -- the White House said, "Under the President’s plan, states will have flexibility to spend as much as 100 percent of the Federal funding they receive on improving rural broadband access."

But the other side of the coin is that the states don't have to spend any of it on rural broadband if they decide they have more pressing needs for the money.

The White House was clearly putting in a good word for rural broadband expenditures, however.

Related: Trump Signals $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

"Inadequate broadband access is a barrier to rural prosperity," the White House said. "It stunts economic growth and prevents many rural Americans from engaging in the modern economy. Further, lack of broadband access deprives many rural students of educational opportunities afforded to those living in areas with better connectivity. Expanded broadband access will offer a better quality of life and more economic opportunity for rural communities that have been left behind for too long."

That was not a big surprise given the President's economic report to Congress earlier this week, in which he called the rural broadband buildout situation "intolerable."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.