Trump pushes to expand high-speed internet in rural America

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NASHVILLE (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump was expected on Monday to sign an executive order to make it easier for the private sector to locate broadband infrastructure on federal land and buildings, part of a push to expand high-speed internet in rural America.

Faster internet speeds in rural areas have long been seen as key to addressing the economic divide between rural and urban America, but the costs have so far been prohibitive.

About 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to high- speed internet service, the Federal Communications Commission said in a 2016 report.

“We need to get rural America more connected. We need it for our tractors, we need it for our schools, we need it for our home-based businesses,” a White House official told reporters ahead of Trump’s speech at the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“We’re not moving mountains but we’re certainly getting started,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview Trump’s actions.

The White House described the moves as an incremental step to help spur private development while the administration figures out what it can do to help with funding, something that could become part of Trump’s plan to invest in infrastructure.

“We know that funding is really the key thing to actually changing rural broadband,” a second White House official said.

Reporting by Jeff Mason in Nashville and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker