PRESS RELEASE: Schools, Libraries, and Companies Urge Trump Administration to Invest in Broadband Infrastructure May 17, 2017
For Immediate Release:
May 17, 2017
Communications Manager, SHLB Coalition
Schools, Libraries, and Companies Urge Trump Administration to Invest in Broadband Infrastructure
Washington, DC (May 17, 2017) - Connecting our nation’s schools, libraries, health clinics, and other community anchor institutions (CAIs) to affordable high-speed broadband needs to be a national infrastructure priority, especially in rural markets. In an effort to accomplish this goal, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition today is releasing a letter to President Trump signed by 31 companies and anchor institutions urging the Trump Administration to include funding to deploy high-capacity broadband to and through anchor institutions in rural markets in the upcoming infrastructure package.
The term “anchor institution” refers to any large community institution that serves the needs of the general public, and includes community colleges, public housing, community centers, public media, and local government offices in addition to schools, libraries, health clinics and hospitals. These community anchor institutions are crucial to closing America’s digital divide.
“Anchor institutions power our communities and economy,” said John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director of SHLB. “Investing in broadband infrastructure to connect our schools, libraries, hospitals, and health clinics ensures all Americans have access to the digital tools necessary to advance their education, health, and participation in the 21st century.”
The letter stresses that deploying high-capacity broadband to all rural anchor institutions is a cost-effective model to connect entire communities and stimulate economic growth. Unfortunately, the needs of anchor institutions are not addressed by existing funding mechanisms like the FCC’s Connect America Fund because anchor institutions need much greater bandwidth than the 10 Mbps service provided to residential consumers.
“Strengthening America’s high-speed broadband should not be a wish — it should be a national priority,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “Millions of students still lack robust connectivity to complete their homework, undertake 21st century learning, apply for higher education and acquire skills necessary for success in the workplace. America should seize the moment and make a long-term investment in expanding broadband and supporting the equitable learning experience every child deserves.”
“ALA agrees with the many local, state and congressional leaders who’ve said that every American needs high speed broadband,” said Julie Todaro, President of American Library Association (ALA). “It’s unquestionably a critical part of our national infrastructure and must be part of any coming bill. Especially in difficult economic times, leveraging America’s 120,000 libraries to get broadband and the resources and services delivered through broadband to almost every community is the best first investment toward that goal that Congress and this Administration can make."
The letter emphasizes the importance of an open application process for federal funding to spur competition, networking sharing to promote public-private partnerships, and coordinated and streamlined deployment, such as “dig once” and “make ready” policies.
The digital divide is most acutely felt in rural America. The costs of deploying high-speed broadband in rural areas can be two to three times higher than in urban markets which makes it difficult for commercial companies to invest without financial support.
“Universal service policies have helped overcome the economic disadvantages of rural markets to deliver affordable electricity and phone service to nearly everyone in the country, and this basic concept should now apply to broadband,” said Don Means, Director of Gigabit Libraries Network. “Community anchor institutions can play a critical role as ‘intermediate end points’ in building out fiber infrastructure to lessen the cost/risk burdens on rural wired and wireless last mile investments whether by commercial, public or non-profit providers.”
"Public investment in broadband infrastructure has proven to be a sound investment that benefits local communities,” said Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director, Access Humboldt. “Community anchor institutions, including local community-based media outlets along with libraries, schools, public health and safety agencies, all play key roles in connecting people with each other and with essential services. This is particularly true for remote rural areas like the North Coast of California where the ability to interconnect is particularly challenging."
The signatories to the letter are diverse, ranging from commercial broadband companies to non-profits, education to health groups, rural to urban, and local to national. People across the country can unite around infrastructure as a bipartisan issue.
“The more than 170 mayors and local leaders who make up Next Century Cities know that next-generation broadband is critical infrastructure for all Americans – these local leaders see every day how access to high-quality broadband is necessary for the anchor institutions in their cities and for the more than 33 million people they represent,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “Next Century Cities is proud to join in this call to adequately fund broadband infrastructure in any new legislation and to ensure the barriers to deployment that mayors and local leaders acutely feel are addressed.”
“The American people have voiced their concern – they feel disconnected. We must address this concern directly by finding ways to connect all Americans to the Internet,” Windhausen said. “We hope that President Trump takes this opportunity to invest in the digital future of our nation’s anchor institutions to promote education, health, and economic growth.
The SHLB Coalition is the leading advocate for open, affordable, high-capacity broadband for our nation’s anchors and their communities. SHLB is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. SHLB launched its Grow2GiG+ Campaign to help bring gigabit speed-and-beyond networks to all anchor institutions in America by 2020. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.