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Opinion

Bridging Nevada’s Digital Divide

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By Former Mayor Daniel Corona of West Wendover, Nevada

As a fourth generation Nevadan who was born and raised in West Wendover and who served as Mayor of West Wendover it has always been my goal to make my community a better place to live. I know first-hand that in rural America, the struggle for equitable access to essential resources is a challenge and broadband connectivity is no exception.

I applaud the administration and Democrats in Congress who have worked hard to make sure that they are expanding resources like broadband connectivity to places like rural Nevada. Thanks to President Biden and our elected Representatives, Congress passed the $1.2 bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes over $400 million in funding for Nevada to close the digital divide. As a result of their leadership, we have the opportunity to get all of the Silver State connected – including rural communities like mine.

While the infrastructure bill represents an unprecedented chance for our state, I am concerned that overregulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Commerce could put rural broadband expansion at risk. Although I recognize the role that
regulators play in protecting consumers and our tax dollars, overly zealous regulation can come with unintended consequences that could harm rural communities like mine.

One notable example is the introduction of price cap requirements in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. This initiative holds promise for delivering much-needed broadband infrastructure to rural areas in Nevada. Yet, price caps threaten to limit states’ ability to attract capable private partners willing to share the costs of these projects. Discouraging experienced, well-resourced partners from participating may result in overpaying for less effective providers, jeopardizing the success of these vital investments. Congress was well aware of the risks of rate regulation in rural communities when they passed the infrastructure bill – in fact, the bipartisan bill explicitly banned the type of regulation the Department of Commerce is now promoting.

During my time as Mayor, I focused on issues like improving healthcare for my constituents. That includes options like telehealth that can only succeed when our community is fully connected. With full internet connectivity, residents in remote areas can seamlessly access telehealth services, connecting with healthcare professionals for virtual consultations, monitoring their chronic conditions, and receiving timely medical advice. This is particularly critical in rural communities where the distances to healthcare facilities can be substantial. The convenience and efficiency afforded by connectivity in telehealth not only enhances healthcare outcomes but can also contribute to an overall improvement in the well-being of individuals living in rural communities like ours.

The BEAD program holds immense potential to transform rural areas across the nation, offering much-needed connectivity to those left behind in the digital age. But to fully realize this potential, we must find a balance between effective regulation and creating an environment that fosters private investment and collaboration.

Rural communities need partners who are not only willing but enthusiastic about joining forces to bridge the digital divide. By encouraging such collaboration, we can guarantee that the BEAD program fulfills its promise, delivering high-quality, accessible broadband to the areas that need it most.

Daniel Corona is the former Mayor of West Wendover, Nevada. Daniel, a fourth generation resident of the Wendover area, was inspired to run after meeting with voters in his neighborhood who were frustrated by the lack of transparency and access within City Hall. Daniel also worked as the Senior Center Director at the West Wendover Senior Center. A lifelong outdoorsman, Daniel is a passionate advocate for protecting Nevada’s public lands.