Last week, President Obama visited our neighbors in Iowa to promote better and faster broadband service. Specifically, he proposed overriding state laws currently on the books in 19 states preventing cities from building their own tax-payer owned broadband networks, and he wants to offer federal funds to assist cities with such projects.
South Dakota’s rural broadband providers agree there is a critical importance to high speed broadband in this Information Age, and we agree that the federal government must remain fully committed to achieving goals that will bring affordable broadband to all Americans regardless of where they live.
However, we have concerns with any proposal which would entice cities to construct new broadband networks where the existing providers in the market already provide this critical service. Instead, we’d like to see the President make a stronger commitment to maintaining and strengthening existing federal programs that have a proven history of bringing high quality and affordable services to small towns and rural areas.
South Dakotans, today, are generally immune from the problem of poor broadband service thanks to the investment of South Dakota’s rural broadband providers and the partnership of many of these providers have with SDN Communications. Together, our companies through a combination of private investment and existing programs have successfully deployed high speed broadband networks to more than 300 communities across the state, including to some places that rarely get attention—places like Artesian, Glenham, and Orient.
Now, we will be the first to admit that there are communities in the U.S. that need and deserve better broadband. In fact, there are portions of South Dakota that deserve better services than what they receive today. The President’s proposal, however, carries significant risk. It goes without saying that all new competitive business ventures face the possibility of failure. The cost for even a small community to build a competing broadband network runs into the millions of dollars in addition to the ongoing cost of personnel, maintenance and necessary upgrades.
For more than 80 years, the federal government has utilized a baseline philosophy when it comes to telecommunications service — that being any service available must be affordable and the service must be comparable for all Americans regardless of their location. This “universal service” philosophy has played a significant role in helping to bring high quality telephone service to all areas of the nation.
Updating and strengthening existing programs would create stability in the marketplace and would have a more positive affect in bringing state-of-the-art broadband services to areas that may be currently lacking. This strategy would promote long-term investment in broadband facilities and would result in better service for people living in small towns and rural areas all across the country.
In today’s world, everyone wants to go fast on the Information Superhighway. Our goal is to do that in a way that makes sense for South Dakota communities, their residents and the companies that provide them with some of the best broadband services in America.
CEO, SDN Communications
Take a look at some of the local news coverage from this week: