The Politics of Good Enough: Rural Broadband and Policy Failure in the United States

Christopher Ali


The U.S. rural–urban digital divide has been a policy concern for more than a decade. The issue has intensified with the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement that people live, work, and study online from home. This is not possible for more than 42 million Americans, most notably those in rural communities, who lack access to high-speed Internet (broadband). Despite a policy of universal service and billions of dollars for deployment, policy makers have been unable to close the rural–urban digital divide. To understand this disjuncture between policy and deployment, this article analyzes current U.S. rural broadband policies as developed and implemented by the Federal Communications Commission. Drawing on critical political economy and theories of policy failure, I argue that rural broadband policy has failed in three capacities: meaning, mapping, and money. These failures occur because of a “politics of good enough” that dominates U.S. rural broadband policy.


rural broadband, broadband policy, telecommunications policy, FCC, policy failure

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