US coalition to work with FCC on increasing rural broadband access

A group of community leaders, rural advocates and innovators teamed up to form Connect Americans Now, a coalition that seeks to eliminate the digital divide in the country by 2022, according to Advanced Television.

The group will work with the Federal Communications Commission and other lawmakers to ensure there is sufficient, unlicensed low-band spectrum in every market for broadband connectivity. The launch of CAN follows the FCC's December repeal of net neutrality, or Obama-era regulations that prohibited internet providers from charging more to create internet fast lanes and prioritize certain content over others.

"All Americans regardless of where they live deserve access to high-speed internet," said Richard Cullen, executive director of CAN. "Without a broadband connection, millions of students struggle to keep up with their assignments, Americans in rural areas are unable to fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture and businesses are unable to tap into the world of online commerce. Congress and the FCC must stand with rural America by allowing Internet service providers to deliver broadband via white spaces spectrum."

Microsoft; the National Rural Education Association; the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition; the Wisconsin Economic Development Association; Alaska Communications; Axiom; the Mid-Atlantic Broadcasting Communities Corporation; and the American Pain Relief Institute are among CAN's founding members. As part of its initial launch, CAN developed local coalitions in Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin in an effort to educate rural stakeholders on the opportunities regarding long-range, wireless broadband over TV white spaces. 

A plan endorsed by the group aims to accelerate the deployment and reduce the cost of high-speed internet by applying the unused bandwidth below the 700 MHz frequency range, called TV white spaces, which is available on an unlicensed basis. Wireless signals on this range are able to travel over hills and through buildings, benefiting rural areas that seek last-mile broadband access.

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