Presidential Executive Order expected to expand broadband in rural America

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 - An Executive Order, to be signed Thursday by President Barack Obama, could make broadband construction along federal roads up to 90 percent more affordable, according to National Grange President Ed Luttrell. The President's Executive Order will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and the US Postal Service to offer carriers a uniform approach to leasing federal assets to expand their broadband infrastructure and services.

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"America's farmers and ranchers need broadband services to stay connected and competitive in today's digital era,” Luttrell said. “Having access to the same services and privileges as our urban counterparts will drastically change the way rural America does business.”

The Executive Order is based off of Sen. Mark R. Warner's (D-Va.) two proposals to promote the expansion of broadband networks. Currently, the procedures for approving broadband infrastructure projects on properties controlled or managed by the federal government-including large tracts of land, roads and thousands of buildings across the nation-vary depending on which agency manages the property. The Executive Order will attempt to ensure that agencies charged with managing federal properties and roads take specific steps to adopt a uniform approach.

“This Executive Order will help bring broadband to underserved communities across Virginia and the nation while saving both money and time with limited federal investment,” Warner said.

The first Warner proposal, first advanced through legislation introduced with Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), authorizes the installation of small wireless base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings in order to increase wireless coverage. According to Warner, once the initiative is enacted through the Executive Order, it should help prevent dropped calls that can occur indoors and in rural areas due to poor cell phone coverage, while at the same time improving overall wireless network capacity by more effectively utilizing broadband wireless networks.

The second Warner proposal, first proposed through “dig once” legislation introduced with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), directs federal agencies to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when roads are already under construction. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband comes from the cost of digging up and then repairing the road.

"By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed and our citizens become more engaged," Luttrell said. "Further, this Executive Order will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work, a priority for every American, not just those in rural areas."

The White House will also announce the formation of a new public/private partnership known as "US Ignite." The new alliance will consist of nearly 100 partners, including major cities, corporations, and non-profit groups, joining more than 60 universities to develop test networks that could run up to 100 times faster than modern Internet services.

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