Donald Trump is putting a pressing issue for the rural United States on the presidential agenda, promising to improve broadband internet coverage across the country.
An enthusiastic crowd welcomed the announcement, made in a speech to the Farm Bureau’s annual convention - an influential peak lobby group for the agricultural sector - in Tennessee on Monday.
The lack of connectivity across the rural US is analogous to the predicament in Australia, albeit with higher population density.
About 23 million US rural residents, or 39 per cent, do not have access to broadband, relying on dial-up connections via copper landlines.
The US is looking to encourage the private sector to build and operate wireless networks.
Mr Trump said his new policy would make it easier for private companies to access publicly owned buildings and land, which would encourage them to build new wireless broadband.
The President signed a memorandum that directs the Secretary of the Interior, who is responsible for management of federal land, to open access to government assets for commercial installation of broadband infrastructure on government assets.
He also issued an executive order directing federal agencies “to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America”.
“Those towers are going to go up, and you’re going to have great, great broadband,” Mr Trump said.
However, critics have questioned the potential effectiveness of the policy. They argue low rural population density has to date stymied commercial development of wireless broadband and said increased access to federal infrastructure is unlikely to promote investment in new wireless towers.
Crop insurance support
Mr Trump also said he would support crop insurance.
And I support a bill that includes crop insurance, unless you don’t want me to. (Applause.) Thank you. I guess you like it. Right?,” Mr Trump told the audience.
In May, the President floated a US$45 billion cut to ag sector funding, targeted at federal contributions to crop insurance.
But he told the Farm Bureau convention he would work with Congress to fund it through the Farm Bill, which allocates resources to ag programs.
“Good, because if I heard no applause, I’d say, forget it, give it up. Now I can’t do that. No, we’re working hard on the farm bill and I think it’s going to go well,” Mr Trump said.
The President briefly alluded to the controversial North American Free Trade agreement.
“On NAFTA, I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers,” he said.
Australian policy comparison
Australia’s publicly-funded National Broadband Network will connect premises to the broadband network through a copper line to a fibre node on the street. Rural and remote areas where fixed-line connections are unavailable will be serviced by wireless broadband networks.
The Australian government announced it is set to scrap the Universal Service Obligation (USO) for nationwide access to a fixed copper line telephone services.
A market based solution, supplemented by targeted government intervention, will replace the $300 million a year USO contract with Telstra sometime after 2020 when the National Broadband Network (NBN) roll out is due to be completed.
Government renewed its guarantee of voice based services for all residents, but said it will consider a range of alternate technology solutions where fixed line connections are not commercially viable.