As states struggle to close the connectivity gap in rural areas, some experts believe a federal mandate, similar to the one that first brought those residents electricity, might be in order.
The American landscape of broadband in rural areas is spotty at best. It is a picture covered with splotches of color. Some maps are covered with red indicating there is no service; and other maps are covered in blue where access can be found. In states like North and South Dakota, officials have done their best to give their populace fiber to the home.
Then there are areas where the state government has worked hard to provide grants and a flexible network of private and local not-for-profit organizations to build out coverage slowly. An excellent example of this would be Minnesota where 117 providers have come together to build infrastructure in the name of economic development.
Then there is the vibrant area of broadband build out that is headed by rural electric cooperatives. Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to bring electricity to rural areas when privately owned companies were not building out to farms and ranches. The act allowed electricity to rural areas through cooperatives, many of which still exist today. These member-owned co-ops purchased power on a wholesale basis and electricity was distributed on a network of their building. Many government experts see this model as a potential saving grace for Internet in rural areas.
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In the Sierra Region, Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications is an example for some out of the box thinking, building a fiber network to serve Plumas, Lasse, and Sierra counties. More details at the link.