The cable industry has long recognized that quality broadband services are crucial drivers of economic development in communities large and small. When cable delivers broadband to small communities, it’s what links them to the rest of the country and the world, creates jobs, improves educational opportunities, and delivers health care more efficiently.
Since 1996, the cable industry has invested over $200 billion to upgrade and expand its networks and facilities to provide broadband access. This investment has delivered broadband to roughly 15 to 20 million rural households. The vast majority of these households are offered service with downstream transmission speeds of 10 Mbps or greater, certainly comparable to the services available in urban areas.
Last October, we wrote about GCI’s efforts in Alaska to bring a terrestrial, fiber-rich cable broadband network extending into some of the most isolated Alaskan villages. These connections (online since July 2012) are both speedy and affordable. Entry-level prices are as inexpensive as they are in major metropolitan areas.
Here in the lower 48 we’ve seen the rollout of rural cable communications from Midcontinent’s Northern Plains Network that is especially designed to support business. There are over 6,400 miles of fiber in North and South Dakota and rural Minnesota that is scalable to a monster four terabits per second, is redundant, self-healing, and monitored 24/7.
One of the smallest cable providers, Eagle Communications, is an employee-owned company with 270 employees, operating 32 cable systems focused on serving just 18,000 customers. Ninety-nine percent of the homes passed by its cable plant have access to broadband connections.
And Mediacom’s cable network is based primarily in rural America, providing state-of-the-art information services to smaller cities and towns in 22 states. Mediacom passes over 2.85 million homes and offers blazingly fast services to many local businesses that reach symmetrical broadband speeds of one gigabit per second.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which rural cable companies are investing in their local communities. But our work isn’t done. We need to continue to support and protect the success of these small businesses and rural communities by promoting further private investment.
The best way for government to address the challenge of rural broadband deployment is to ensure that scarce taxpayer funds are directed specifically to areas that currently do not have broadband service and are unlikely to attract private investment. Without this focus, we not only fail in directing government support to its intended purpose, but we also run the risk of discouraging private investment in communities already served by private Internet providers. The FCC has done a commendable job in starting to reform the outdated universal service support regime in a way that redirects subsidies from served areas to un-served areas.
As the FCC continues to implement the reforms adopted in 2011, it must ensure that subsidies are being used to connect the millions of Americans that still do not have broadband, not to compete with businesses already supplying broadband services.
Cable’s commitment to supporting small and large businesses, hospitals, schools and government entities in rural communities helps fulfill the promise of an Internet that everyone can access and through it, improve their lives. The Internet isn’t just for big cities, provided by big companies – it’s for everyone, provided by the large and small cable companies of America.
To learn more about the businesses that deliver broadband to the far corners of America, you can visit their websites:
Mediacom, which offers its residential customers up to 105 Mbps broadband speeds.
Midcontinent Communications, which connected small town libraries with 100 Mbps fiber circuits.
Eagle Communications, which offer local businesses web hosting solutions and full data storage warehousing for “back up recovery.”
BendBroadband, which invested over $100 million in its Central Oregon operations to include 2,000 miles of fiber and coax infrastructure.
GCI, which recently opened a 9,000 square foot state-of-the-art data services center.
Suddenlink, which built a redundant 860 MHz broadband plant as part of the company’s statewide broadband network in West Virginia.
Sjoberg’s Inc., which, since 1993, has installed fiber to connect almost every one of the towns it serves.