Workers’ frustrations with the massive changes in the manufacturing sector played a large role in determining the
election results. Now it’s going to take
an unprecedented spirit of realism—
about technology, about trade, about the
inevitability of change—to address those
Mark Muro is a senior fellow and the
director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy
Program at the Brookings Institution.
Poor areas have lousy Internet. Here’s what
Trump can do to help them.
The economic and democratic activities
of American life now rely on advanced
communications services—and there’s a
huge gap between those who get access
to these services and those who don’t. It
springs from a lack of infrastructure investment in some parts of the country (see “The
Hole in the Digital Economy,” page 88).
And where are these places? It just
so happens that the areas with the least
investment in communications infrastructure, like fiber-optic cabling, are
the same rural precincts that broke so
strongly for Donald Trump in November.
Rural areas are typically served only
by phone company infrastructure—aging
copper networks. That means they’ve
never benefited from competitive cable
networks that could provide faster and
cheaper access to the Internet. Some rural
networks date back a century and are
being shut down or neglected as phone
companies find that their dollars can be
spent more profitably elsewhere. Given
the massive up-front investment that’s
necessary, there’s simply not enough revenue potential in rural areas to justify the
capital cost of upgrading networks.
President-elect Trump knows a thing
or two about using tax, subsidy, and partnership strategies to get projects financed
and built. Here are three ways he could
use that knowledge to shrink the digital
First, if Trump proposes a major infrastructure financing bill, as anticipated, he
should include broadband infrastructure.
Broadband deployment creates immediate construction jobs and also offers
long-term economic benefits. High-speed
Internet is the electricity of the 21st century—you don’t get economic growth
Second, he should expand the New
Market Tax Credits program, which lets
community development agencies in poor
areas sell tax credits to private entities to
help finance economic development projects (like new broadband infrastructure).
This is a bipartisan program that generates more revenue than it costs. It gets
investment into areas that would otherwise struggle to attract private capital.
Third, he should allow public-private
entities to use tax-free municipal bonds
to build communications infrastructure.
Typically, such bonds can’t be used for
projects where a private entity will use
whatever infrastructure ends up being
built, and that rule is stifling development. Pikeville, Kentucky, is trying to
finance the construction of a fiber-optic
network that it would subsequently lease
to private entities that could then offer
services on the network (since the city
doesn’t want to be in the broadband business). Under the current rules, this kind of
project can’t be built with tax-free municipal bonds. Trump could change that.
The president-elect has long been a
builder of hotels, golf courses, and casi-
nos. It’s time he invested in the critical
communications infrastructure necessary
for economic growth in the rural areas
that supported him so strongly.
Joanne Hovis is the CEO of the Coalition
for Local Internet Choice and the president
of CTC Technology & Energy.
Why a man who has called global warming a
hoax might not harm the planet as many fear.
The Trump administration could be harm-
ful to the planet. But it won’t be fatal.
The harm will come from bombast
and the inability of the United States
to be a reliable partner and leader in
international diplomacy. The Trump
presidency will probably see the United
States roll back payments to the climate
regime—a treaty organized under the
United Nations. The sums are relatively
small (less than $3 billion initially) but
politically essential to demonstrating
that the United States is committed to
Trump will also inflict harm by failing
to provide leadership. The Paris agreement was successful in part because it
papered over disagreements and pushed
important tasks into the future. It works
because it’s a “pledge and review” system—it gives countries flexibility to set
their own commitments but then reviews
those efforts periodically to see what’s
working. The approach is highly suited
to a problem like this—where many countries want to act but nobody is quite sure
what’s best—but it only works if there are
serious reviews. It’s unlikely that a Trump
administration will foster good review
The areas with the worst communications infrastructure
broke strongly for Trump in November.