CoBank economist says broadband providers can’t do it alone
A communications economist says the coronavirus pandemic has amplified the vulnerability of rural residents without broadband and the need to reform infrastructure funding.
Jeff Johnston with CoBank tells Brownfield widespread connectivity comes with a big price tag.
“From as low as $80 billion to as high as $150 billion to ultimately bridge the digital divide.”
He says legislation moving through Congress could pay for some of the infrastructure needs or provide subsidies so providers can continue offering services through the pandemic, but it’s not sustainable.
“These rural operators don’t have these huge balance sheets and access to all of this cash so where offering free service for a year or two to a handful of customers is not an issue—it is an issue.”
Johnston believes the funding mechanisms to build broadband networks in high-cost areas are flawed and contribution reform is needed to broaden resources.