How Tax Reform Can Support Rural Broadband

Brookings: Nicol Turner-Lee, Fellow – Governance Studies, Center for Technology Innovation

Not all U.S. communities are created equal when it comes to broadband deployment and availability. Earlier this year, my colleagues Blair Levin and Carol Mattey shared the challenges associated with deploying broadband in rural areas. According to the authors, it is not only expensive, but it does not necessarily yield a profitable return for private companies.

The gap in high-speed broadband access between rural and urban areas remains wide in the U.S. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans (23.4 million) lack broadband access to a fixed service with speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download/3 Mbps upload, while only four percent of urban residents lack access to those speeds. Without access to high-speed broadband, rural residents are severely limited when it comes to economic development, civic engagement, and the other social benefits related to broadband availability and its adoption.

As the House GOP released the first draft of the tax plan last week, rural broadband deployment, an issue that continues to receive bipartisan congressional attention, may find some helpful incentives. For telecommunications companies that are highly capital-intensive, the draft that the Senate eventually adopts could impact investments in new rural broadband facilities or the upkeep of existing network infrastructure in rural and urban areas.

Full Report is HERE.

Broadband is critical infrastructure for rural economic development and should be considered as such by all levels of government.

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