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The arguments for and against spending federal money to extend broadband connections into rural areas are summed up in this opinion piece in the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal.

The article begins with conservative Matt Brouillette, who writes that the plan to spend up to $8 billion extending broadband to rural communities “doesn’t make sense for the taxpayers.” Brouillette writes, “First, broadband isn’t even necessary to access the Internet; it’s a luxury.” Second, there are already programs that are charged with doing this work. And as a result, there is a steady increase in the percentages of people with broadband access. Third, wireless makes more sense for rural areas anyway. “If the goal is to get Americans onto the Internet with broadband, the most effective approach is to let the market continue to deliver it. Competition between providers — without government interference — will do much more to lower prices and increase the quality of, and access to, service.”

Eric Epstein takes the other position. “Broadband is to the 21st century as electric was to Depression-era America. If you supplanted the term “broadband” with “water” or “electricity,” most Americans would agree that it is the legitimate role of the government to bring modern technology to American citizens,” he writes. Opponents to the broadband initiative sound like those who opposed the New Deal rural electric initiatives. “That argument makes sense if you’re antigrowth and believe large swaths of the country should be left in the dark.”

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