Broadband access in rural areas in the United States is not only a market failure, but a market disaster, as private providers have little interest in serving expensive, hard-to-reach places. In its most recent attempt to bridge the rural-urban digital divide, Congress allocated $42.5 billion for broadband deployment, the distribution of which is to be determined by the FCC's national broadband maps. Yet these maps, which themselves have been outsourced to private actors, have consistently exaggerated broadband availability, depriving many rural communities of much-needed funding and a voice in this critical infrastructural issue.
The history of rural electrification demonstrates why vital public utilities cannot be left to the machinations of the market. To achieve rural rural broadband, we must empower communities to connect themselves in the absence of private capital.