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Merger would help bring more broadband coverage to rural areas

August 17, 2011
The Daily Freeman Journal

To the editor:

As the last several weeks were dominated by the budget battles in Washington, D.C., Americans took a much closer look at the way our government spends taxpayer money. With over $14 trillion in national debt, the appeal of private sector solutions has never been more attractive - in fact, it is one of the keys to helping America's economy rebound.

Much of the country understands that in this information age, our economic future is tied to the availability of high-speed Internet service, or broadband. It is a job creator that allows businesses to reach new markets, entrepreneurs to innovate and small business to adapt and produce jobs in their communities.

But broadband isn't everywhere yet. Surprisingly, our country is currently experiencing a shortage in mobile broadband access, and many small, rural communities are suffering the most. Recognizing its potential, at the beginning of the year, the President set a national goal to make the technology available to 98 percent of the U.S. population.

The private sector, and not taxpayers, should take center stage and lead this effort.

The proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile carries a game-changing plan for investment that would help the nation nearly reach that goal without using the taxpayers' wallet.

Rather than turn to government to solve the lack of broadband access, this merger promises to bring over 97 percent of Americans access to 4th Generation mobile broadband technology, with rural communities standing to benefit the most. If approved, an additional 55 million Americans will gain access to high speed mobile broadband. In states like Iowa, that would result in many more communities gaining access to fast and high quality wireless technology.

Increased mobile broadband access to rural communities will allow America's farmers to keep up with market conditions, suppliers, customers, and food processors in real time. For small businesses, it means access to customers worldwide and the ability to compete in the global marketplace.

In addition to all this, AT&T has committed an $8 billion private investment to expand its network infrastructure and make high-speed wireless broadband available to more communities across the country.

Clearly, this is just another example of the private sector providing a better solution to the challenge of rural mobile broadband access. The best course of action is for regulators to approve this merger and encourage this type of progress via the private sector.

In this case, the private sector is delivering a public good, in community after community, small town after small town by delivering access to these advancements in technology. Soon, I hope we'll be able to say that every American has access to broadband technology, and if the merger is approved we'll all be thanking the private sector for making it happen.

Jerry Behn




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