Expanding Broadband – Not A Purely Rural Problem

Broadband coverage “black holes” exist in areas beyond the stereotypical Rural America setting – and filling these gaps will be a priority for governments and other actors at every level.

Politico’s recent article, “Not-so-remote areas with internet ‘black holes’ renew fight for broadband,” details the struggle ahead to advance broadband access – including the very mapping of areas requiring attention.

From their coverage:

Robin Fitzpatrick, president of the Adams Economic Alliance, described great frustration with the “black holes” of broadband inadequacy in the county that became obvious during the pandemic; the school district bought 200 Wi-Fi hotspots for students whose homes lacked adequate wired options. “We realize how vulnerable we are in many different ways,” she said.

For decades, policymakers in Washington and state capitals have fretted about the patchwork of broadband access in the United States, which has held back economic development in underserved areas and became a major problem during the pandemic, when residents in these pockets suddenly couldn’t tap into what abruptly became the online default for much of the nation.

Now, after years of federal subsidies that have improved but not solved the problem, the Biden administration is proposing to spend $100 billion over the next eight years to finally connect every American household to high-speed internet. But solving the problem isn’t just a matter of cutting a big check to fund the installation of fiber pipelines. The nation, simply put, doesn’t even know where its internet black holes are found.

MACo adopted “Build out Broadband” among its top legislative initiatives for 2021, and supported multiple successful initiatives. Counties continue to develop approaches to this vexing issue, with federal funds through the State likely to complement local and private-sector initiatives.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties