Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Says Broadband “Ties Rural Localities to Economic Mainstream,” Conveys Critical Benefits Including Expanded Access to Healthcare, Education, Information
WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 19, 2011 – Rural communities significantly benefit from expanded access to broadband, according to former Congressman Rick Boucher, Honorary Chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans. “Broadband is the bridge that ties rural localities to the economic mainstream,” said Boucher, who chaired the Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and cofounded the Congressional Internet Caucus.
Boucher continued, “The Internet is transformative for rural economies, enabling virtually any business to be conducted from any location. With broadband, no longer is it necessary for a business to have physical urban proximity to its customers and suppliers. The virtual proximity of high-speed connectivity meets the same communications need, enabling businesses to take advantage of the lower costs and excellent quality of life rural communities offer. They can conduct their operations just as efficiently from remote regions as they can in or near cities.”
Having observed first-hand the improved level of medical care, educational access and economic opportunity that broadband confers on rural areas, Boucher joined the IIA to spread awareness about the transformative nature of high-speed Internet access – particularly for unserved and underserved communities across the U.S.
Boucher added, “I have a rural perspective. I devoted most of my congressional career to the pursuit of rural opportunity through the use of the latest information technologies in remote regions. Today, we are poised to take the next transformative step: bringing broadband to the hardest-to-serve communities, enabling them at last to achieve their long-held quality of life goals and bettering the entire nation, which will benefit through truly national connectivity.”
One of the critical steps forward in expanding access to next generation mobile technology, according to Boucher and the IIA, is approval of the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.
“President Obama has set a national goal of reaching 98 percent of Americans with broadband Internet access within five years. The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile alone will bring next generation mobile broadband access to more than 97 percent of our population with private – not taxpayer – dollars. This will significantly reduce the number of broadband have-nots, and ensure that rural communities and rural residents across the U.S. can experience the positive benefits broadband access provides, including improved access to education, economic opportunity and healthcare. Expanded emergency access to 911 that high-speed mobile broadband would enable, for example, is critical for Rural America.”
Additionally, Boucher pointed out that, following the merger, “The numbers of rural homes lacking broadband access will be dramatically reduced, leaving a far smaller gap to be filled with universal service funds, Rural Utilities Service grants and loans and private investment.”
Honorary Chairman Boucher arrived in Congress in 1983 when town meetings in many rural counties were dominated by talk about the inability of homes to receive television signals. In addition to video connectivity, he spent the next 25 years working to deliver the latest in communications capabilities and information technologies to hard-to-reach rural populations, helping to improve their lives. The communities Abingdon and Bristol in Virginia in the 1990s, for example, became among the first in the nation to deploy fiber optics to the premises of homes and businesses, delivering voice, video and Internet content at blazing speeds.
While in Congress, Boucher championed economic development grants in deploying Internet backbones, pioneered the rural use of fiber optics-based telemedicine and distance learning, and even helped the small Southwest Virginia town of Claudeville become the first in the nation to use television white spaces for wireless broadband delivery.
Boucher continues promoting expanded access to broadband for rural communities through his work with IIA. The IIA has released research further detailing the ways broadband can help rural America. The Alliance’s Top Ten list is as follows:
Ten Ways Broadband Helps Rural Communities
1) Links local businesses to global markets
2) Allows consumers to tap into e-commerce savings
3) Expands access to educational opportunities
4) Increases local job growth
5) Connects patients to world class healthcare and reduces healthcare costs
6) Enhances economic options for younger generations
7) Provides new tools to farmers and ranchers to grow their businesses
8) Enables entrepreneurs to locate their businesses locally
9) Attracts customers to local businesses
10) Offers families low cost options to stay in touch using the latest technology
To view sourcing for the “Ten Ways Broadband Helps Rural Communities,” visit http://www.internetinnovation.org/rural-infographic.
“The new high-speed mobile broadband offering resulting from an approved AT&T and T-Mobile merger will represent another competitive option in many parts of rural America, and in other parts, will provide an initial bridge to modern communications,” Boucher concluded.