Infrastructure Week offers opportunity for rural family businesses through TV white spaces
Infrastructure week provides an opportunity for lawmakers and business to come together to focus on policies that will help employers, employees, and industry as a whole. With economic prosperity being the goal of the administration, small businesses will continue to be the beneficiaries of the administration’s largely business-friendly posture. While much of the infrastructure focus has been on energy, roads, and air traffic control, we believe that one infrastructure change that will have a significant impact on family businesses in rural states is the development and deployment of rural broadband. Broadband access was a prominent topic on Infrastructure Week’s 2018 DC kickoff event, where mayors and agency heads met with stakeholders in the business community. 95 percent of the United States is categorized as “rural”, and employers in these areas are often left behind when attempting to access important technology, transportation, and services. This urban/rural divide makes competing with larger businesses in metropolitan areas difficult. One strategy to address the digital divide is to leverage TV white spaces (TVWS), or the unused broadcast channels between active channels, to deliver internet service. That 600 MHz frequency range is sometimes called “Super Wi-Fi” because the signals can travel over hills and rugged terrain, traits that have allowed rural communities to access local TV stations. TVWS would enable business owners in rural areas who today remain inhibited by poor infrastructure that prevents expansion. TVWS technology will provide a direct benefit for these business owners, allowing farmers in Iowa collect data on crop growth from sensors in the soil, or ranchers in Montana monitor the health of cattle through wearable tags. Highspeed broadband will empower equipment distributors to track, monitor, and modernize their inventory management and will usher in tech-enabled monitoring of patients suffering from chronic diseases in rural hospitals and health centers. Family Business Coalition applauds the Trump administration and Congress for working to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, and deployment of TV white space technology can provide the conduit to bridge the digital divide for more than 19 million Americans who remain without affordable, reliable broadband access.