Experts believe more than 18 million Americans lack the high-speed internet access necessary to sufficiently participate in America’s business and educational opportunities. The lack of access often derives from the lack of broadband infrastructure in rural areas. That lack of infrastructure is due to there not being enough households per mile in certain areas to offset the costs faced by service providers in installing fiber in those areas. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic and changing economy underscores, the lack of adequate internet access imposes a great obstacle to work and school opportunities for many Americans.
To address this problem, a number of federal and state programs have been undertaken to aid businesses and governments in alleviating some of these obstacles, both in the form of funding through loans and grants and in the creation of state and local institutions to aid in the planning of solutions, including state and local broadband authorities. In addition, private financing of all or part of an infrastructure project has become available in many instances.
These initiatives are a start to solving these challenges and many projects are underway across the nation. However, in addition to the need to obtain financing for such projects, other difficulties still remain, as noted by utility broadband expert and investment banker Christopher R. Perlitz of Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc.:
“Many pitfalls exist in undertaking a rural broadband infrastructure project, including not being pragmatic in estimating real constructions costs, not adequately considering all the risks associated with make-ready issues (i.e, the actual connection to the world-wide web), not implementing a well thought out marketing plan to be competitive from a pricing standpoint and over reliance on corporate partners with nothing to lose if the project struggles”.
While the aforementioned difficulties remain, solutions and structures are available to address these problems and new solutions continually are being advanced to aid in solving these problems facing many Americans.
Timothy B. Anderson is an economic development lawyer with more than 20 years of experience serving as bond counsel, underwriter and placement agent counsel, issuer counsel and developer counsel. As a partner in Taylor English’s Corporate and Business Department, Mr. Anderson focuses his practice on public finance, project finance and other economic development matters as well as corporate bond issuances and corporate law. Mr. Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484.861.3377.