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Information iconRocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado. (Photo: Ian Shive/USFWS)

Facilitating Rural Broadband

Ninety-seven percent of Americans who live in urban areas have access to high-speed Internet and broadband services, but in the nation’s rural areas access is often hard to come by. President Trump recognized this disparity when he signed Executive Order 13821, Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America, on January 8, 2018.

On the same date, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior entitled, Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior. The memorandum directs the Secretary to make federal assets more available for rural broadband deployment, with due consideration for national security concerns, by “… develop[ing] a plan to support rural broadband development and adoption by increasing access to tower facilities and other infrastructure assets managed by the Department of the Interior” and to “identify assets that can be used to support rural broadband deployment and adoption.” 

On June 29, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) participated in the Secretary’s Rural Broadband Industry Listening Session, a roundtable discussion with industry partners to explore ways to work together to increase the availability of broadband services to rural America.

On February 13, 2019 the Department of the Interior released the report:  Connectivity in Rural America, Leveraging Public Lands for Broadband Infrastructure.  This report is based on the DOI’s direction to develop recommendations for streamlining the communications site program and internal comments from agency subject matter experts. The results of this effort and its recommendations are summarized in this report. Ultimately, the DOI aims to use this report to better facilitate broadband infrastructure upgrades and improvements in rural America by: 1) clearly identifying assets, 2) providing solutions that will streamline leasing and permitting, 3) increasing program efficiency, and 4) updating antiquated regulations

The Service supports efforts to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America by increasing access to towers and other infrastructure assets on Service lands in a manner that is compatible with the Service mission: “Working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”  

The Service anticipates that increased rural connectivity will provide benefits to both area residents and visitors to Service lands, including anglers, hunters, wildlife photographers, hikers and students, as well as Service staff.

Additional information and available resources related to bringing Broadband to rural areas is available thru the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  A link to the USDA website is provided below.

Related Resources

person walking in a fieldAuthorities and Regulations Applicable on Service Lands and Waters



three people on boatPermit Process for Broadband Professionals



Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO. Photo by Ian Shive/USFWSU.S. Department of Agriculture website for Broadband



Information iconTrumpeter swans fly in formation over Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)