Coalition aims to eliminate digital divide in rural Montana

Rallying around a plan to eliminate the digital divide by 2022, a diverse group of community leaders, rural advocates and top innovators announced Tuesday the national launch of Connect Americans Now (www.connectamericansnow.com) and the formation of local partnerships in Montana. The new alliance will work with the Federal Communications Commission and other policymakers to ensure that there is sufficient unlicensed low band spectrum in every market in the country to enable broadband connectivity.​ 
The plan endorsed by CAN will rapidly accelerate the deployment – and reduce the cost – of high-speed internet service for 23.4 million rural Americans who live each day without broadband access. It does so by taking advantage of unused but powerful bandwidth below the 700 MHz frequency range, also known as TV white spaces, made available on an unlicensed basis. Wireless signals in this range can travel over hills and through buildings and trees and therefore are great for last mile broadband access in rural areas.
“All Americans – regardless of where they live – deserve access to high-speed internet,” said Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director of Connect Americans Now. “Without a broadband connection, millions of students struggle to keep up with their assignments, Americans in rural areas are unable to fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture and businesses are unable to tap into the world of online commerce. Congress and the FCC must stand with rural America by allowing internet service providers to deliver broadband via white spaces spectrum.”
CAN’s Montana coalition members include the Montana Policy Institute, and national founding partners include Microsoft, ACT: The App Association, the National Rural Education Association, the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Alaska Communications, Axiom, the Mid-Atlantic Broadcasting Communities Corporation, the American Pain Relief Institute, HTS Ag, and others. They also are spearheading an advocacy campaign in Washington, D.C., where FCC regulators have the authority to make sufficient unlicensed spectrum available in each market for high-speed internet.
“Access to high speed Internet in all corners of Montana is absolutely vital for us to be able to compete in the global economy,” said Brent Mead, executive director of the Montana Policy Institute. “That is why we are standing with Connect Americans Now. The new technology that would enable broadband delivery over TV white spaces has the potential to dramatically expand access in our state. It’s time that the FCC get this job done.”
From education to telemedicine and precision agriculture to business development, closing the digital divide could transform the lives and livelihoods of rural Americans from all walks of life.

About Connect
Americans Now
Connect Americans Now is a group of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates and leading innovators committed to eliminating the digital divide that is holding back rural America. Our goal is to bring rural Americans who currently lack connectivity safe and affordable broadband access by 2022 so they can take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that exist in other communities. 

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