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In an effort to build support with rural constituencies, US presidential hopefuls and world leaders alike are proposing increased government funding to improve internet access in remote areas.
With these kinds of proposals growing more common on both sides of the pond, telecoms will likely have an opportunity to build out their rural fixed wireless options by tapping into the promised funding.
Here are what current and would-be leaders are proposing:
- Candidates in the US Democratic primary have put forward a number of plans to help bring broadband service to rural areas. Earlier this week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for $80 billion in funding for broadband initiatives. The plan echoes similar proposals from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, pegged at $85 billion and $50 billion respectively. And others including Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden have staked out their own positions on the matter. Across the board, candidates are looking to provide funding so that telecoms — or, in some plans, public options — are put in place to ensure that rural consumers have access to affordable internet.
- US President Donald Trump has already issued a number of orders directing funding for rural broadband. The expanded rural internet funding has also been bandied about in debates over infrastructure proposals earlier this year, though the $2 trillion infrastructure bill containing those provisions hasn’t been passed yet. These plans are likely an attempt to deliver to rural constituencies that form a core part of the president’s voting bloc.
- In the recent UK campaign for leadership of the Tories, now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the government and telecoms to make fiber optic home internet available in every UK home by 2025. That proposal cuts the projected time frame for achieving UK-wide fiber availability in half — the plan laid out last year by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) targeted full fiber availability by 2033. Johnson had lampooned that timeline as "laughably unambitious" and acknowledged that accelerating it would cost more, but that it would also offer a major boost to national productivity.
The bigger picture: With politicians across the spectrum putting muscle behind delivering rural broadband, it’s an opportune time for telecoms to prepare for increased rural wireless rollouts to enable fixed access.
US and UK telecoms are already taking steps to expand their 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) options for consumers. They’ve started implementing these strategies in order to meet demand that isn’t economical for wired broadband providers to serve, and having plans ready to go when contingent funding from governments rolls out will make it much more likely that they’ll be in position to win contracts.
Expanding service to these rural areas isn’t just good for building revenue streams from those new subscribers — Business Insider Intelligence estimates that nearly 13 million homes in the US will get internet from 5G FWA by 2024 — who will be added; it can also help in marketing campaigns based on widespread coverage as well as in network ratings based upon availability.
The political wrangling surrounding these changes to internet access will only help to facilitate the rollout at a lower cost for operators.
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