Op-Eds

Rural Broadband Access

Opportunities in Rural America by Rep. Henry Cuellar

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Washington, May 1, 2007 | comments

In America, we pride ourselves on being competitive and leading the world in every endeavor we undertake.  As technology continues to progress, it is vital that America and Texas not only keep pace but lead the way in technological advancement and access.  Right now, America ranks 21st in the world at providing digital opportunities to the public.  Moreover, 76 percent of small businesses in rural areas are reporting limited or no access to broadband services.  We need to upgrade our nation’s communications networks in rural areas to provide broadband functionality everywhere. 

As we increase advanced communications services, our children will be able to integrate these tools into their lives.  When we have an emerging workforce that is trained in the latest technology, Texas can be competitive in the national and world markets—and our rural communities and small businesses can continue to grow and thrive.
Advanced communications technologies are vitally important to entrepreneurs in rural communities.  Broadband access can connect rural small businesses to a multitude of potential customers and resources, allowing them to be competitive in the national and world markets.  Small businesses account for approximately 99.7% of all employers and provide nearly three-fourths of the new jobs added to the economy.  As they generate over half of the American Gross Domestic Product, we have a vested interest in providing small businesses with the best technology and latest resources.  Helping rural small businesses succeed results in economic growth for the entire community.
In the education field, the students in rural communities will benefit from increased access to broadband services.  There are many opportunities that exist to broaden education in Texas.  With a direct connection to broadband, connections to distance learning and specialty classes will blossom.

Finally, in times of crisis, communications services play a vital role in conveying messages to the public and securing the safety of each and every individual.  As we sadly witnessed after Hurricane Katrina, communication is crucial to citizens and our emergency responders.  By increasing access to advanced technology in rural communities, we can take pride and comfort in knowing that everyone will receive the assistance and services they need in the wake of a natural disaster.  Just recently, a tornado struck South Texas, highlighting the need for the people of rural communities to have the most complete access to emergency communications and services possible.

Increased access to broadband technology has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life and economic growth in rural communities.  In small communities, it is hard to train workers without the most updated technology, making it difficult for small businesses to retain a qualified and competitive workforce.  As the next generation enters this workforce, it is imperative for the economic health of our rural communities that they can be successful in the small communities they grew up in.  By increasing rural broadband access, we can usher in a new generation of opportunity for the nation’s small communities.

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