The $137M in funding for broadband approved by the FCC could help rural SMBs in a big way.
- The FCC's authorization of $121 million in funding will bring broadband service to 36,579 "unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states" over the next decade.
- This move represents the "fourth wave of support" from the 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will receive funding this month.
- Approximately 17% of businesses are in rural parts of the country, despite the fact that 97% of the U.S. is classified as rural.
Businesses in rural America will benefit from a push to bring broadband internet to 16 states over the coming years after the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) decision to approve $121 million in funding for the project.
The FCC's approval yesterday is the fourth wave of support for last year's Connect America Fund Phase II auction, which allotted nearly $1.5 billion to expand broadband internet connections to "more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses" over the next decade. This latest approval brings the total amount authorized to more than $924 million and brings connectivity to more than 342,000 homes and businesses. The three previous waves of funding were authorized in May, June and July of this year.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the decision "another step toward closing the digital divide."
"As we continue to authorize funds to expand broadband in rural America, I am excited to see the benefits for rural residents who live all across the country, from tribal lands in Wyoming to mountain communities in Appalachia, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest, and from the Texas Panhandle to northern Minnesota," Pai said.
Expanding internet service across the U.S.
Two dozen funding applications were approved by the FCC in yesterday's approval, with companies in Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Tennessee getting millions to improve services.
Among the applications approved was a $4.1 million project by Northern Arapaho Tribal Industries, which is owned by the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming, to bring gigabit broadband services to 849 homes and businesses on the Wind River Reservation. More than 7,000 houses in rural Pennsylvania will gain access to Tri-Co Connections' fiber gigabit network in the coming years, thanks to the $32.3 million approved by the FCC.
On Aug. 1, the FCC also established the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would bring up to $20.4 billion in funding to further expand broadband to unserved rural areas.
Officials said providers were required to "build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years," with the build-out set to increase by "20% in each subsequent year until complete build-out is reached at the end of the sixth year."
Broadband extension's impact on small businesses
According to U.S. Census data, 17% of businesses are located in the country's rural areas even though the government classifies 97% of the country as rural.
For small business owners in rural America, the introduction of broadband internet could be a major boon. Most business applications require an internet connection for some features, so a speedier connection should help speed up productivity.
John Gard, the president of Wisconsin Independent Business wrote in an editorial for the Green Bay Press Gazette this past May that broadband access was paramount for that state's small business community.
"The importance of a safe, reliable internet connection for small business and economic development cannot be understated ... As opportunities in the tech industry continue to grow, someone with a knack for computers in Bayfield will have the same opportunities as anyone in the Bay Area so long as they have a reliable broadband connection," he wrote.