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Gov. Sununu urges federal funds for rural internet

Jun 15, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

On Monday Gov. Sununu sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging more federal funding to expand broadband internet access in rural New Hampshire.

It is not very profitable for companies to build internet infrastructure in rural areas, so the FCC subsidizes companies that agree to build broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.  Consumers support those subsidies through their phone bills.

However, according to Gov. Sununu’s letter, New Hampshire only gets back 44 cents on every dollar that residents contribute to the FCC.

“Because such large portions of my state are rural, a continuing disparity between contribution to and receipt of resources will exacerbate the digital divide in our state,” wrote Sununu.

The “digital divide” generally refers to the gap in internet access between low-income, rural residents and high-income, urban residents.  A lack of broadband internet access slows down business growth, so the digital divide is partly responsible for the higher unemployment rates in rural New Hampshire.

For example, according to the latest data from the FCC, roughly one-third of residents in Coos County do not have access to broadband internet.  Coos County also has the highest unemployment in the state right now, at 4.6%. 

The state could choose to fund rural broadband infrastructure, but that is highly unlikely with so many other state budget priorities for infrastructure repairs and social services.  (/issues/budget-2018-2019)

The FCC program to subsidize rural internet infrastructure has its critics, however.  Some argue that rural residents would get a much better rate for internet service if they were given vouchers for service that would force companies to compete for rural customers.   

The company that administers the FCC funding has also been accused of mismanagement.  

Lastly, New Hampshire is already among the top ten states for the percentage of residents with access to broadband internet. 

Do you think the federal government should dedicate more funding to rural internet access in New Hampshire?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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