Act quickly to get funds for broadband

President Donald Trump revealed two pieces of big news Friday — one of them of enormous importance to millions of Americans who do not yet enjoy technology taken for granted by many of their neighbors. Some of those second-class tech citizens live right here in our state.

Trump talked about upcoming government action regarding 5G information network service. It is one more giant step for humankind, in part because it permits much faster wireless transmission of data.

But it was the second half of the president’s announcement that should have resulted in cheers from many people. Trump said the government is embarking on a $20 billion expansion of an existing initiative to extend broadband internet service to rural areas.

About 19 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet service, according to the Federal Communications Commission. That means many families lack ability to use the internet fully — if they have any service at all.

But think, too, about job creators. Rural areas without broadband service have two strikes against them in the competition to attract new businesses. They have become backwaters of the economy.

Here, state officials should rush to convince the FCC, which presumably will be doling out the $20 billion, to invest a large chunk of the broadband extension money in our rural areas.

Twenty billion dollars is a lot of money — but extending fiber-optic cables is very expensive. The money will be exhausted long before all 19 million Americans who lack broadband service receive it.

So the time for officials in our state to seek as much of the federal funding as we can get is now. The sooner, the better.

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