rural high speed internet providers

The Economic Impact of Broadband in Rural America

Imagine living in an area where fast and reliable internet access is still out of reach. This is a reality for rural America, where rural high speed internet providers are not as prevalent. What if your well-being and economic development hinged on this access? Broadband, widely considered as a basic utility like electricity and water, is central to this discussion. Yet, a significant proportion of rural Americans remain disconnected. What does this mean for the economy? These are the areas that need exploring.

Understanding the broadband gap

The term ‘digital divide’ refers to inequalities in access to information and communication technologies such as the internet. As you may know, rural communities are harder hit by this divide. While 97 percent of urban areas hold broadband connectivity, only 65 percent in rural parts are connected. That leaves approximately 21 million people without reliable internet access. The reasons range from the high cost of infrastructure to those arising from terrain variations.

Broadband as a growth engine

The effects of broadband on economic development serve as an eye-opener for its importance. A study by The World Bank notes a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for developing countries for every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration. Furthermore, research from the Hudson Institute indicates that broadband companies contributed $100 billion to the economy in 2015 alone.

Job creation and Broadband

One undeniable impact is on job creation, particularly indirect employment. According to research conducted by The Hudson Institute, expansion and maintenance of broadband infrastructure in rural areas has generated thousands of jobs in construction, manufacturing, and services across the nation.

Improved Access to Education

Access to broadband allows rural residents to explore online educational opportunities overcoming geographic limitations. It opens up options for remote learning and expands the types of training available. For instance, various online certifications and degrees from reputable institutions offer potential job seekers a competitive edge.

Enabling Telehealth

Broadband facilitates advancements in telehealth or remote healthcare services such as cardiology telemedicine. The current pandemic accentuates its importance. Rural dwellers no longer need to travel for hours for medical consultations. Health care providers can now reach patients through video calls, patient monitoring systems, and remote patient-doctor interfaces.

Enhancing agricultural productivity

Broadband powerfully influences farming too. Through precision agriculture, farmers can use broadband-enabled technologies to track and adapt to real-time changes in weather, soil conditions, crop maturity, and pest infestations. This leads to improved yields and decreased resource use.

Promoting entrepreneurship

Reliable internet access encourages entrepreneurship as it reduces barriers to entry. Startup costs dramatically decrease due to the ability to serve wider markets from home, coupled with the shifting trend towards freelance work and e-commerce.

Bridging social isolation

Rural residents often face the dilemma of social isolation due to geographic dispersion. Broadband helps forge connections within the community and with the wider world using interactive platforms and social media, enriching users’ lives beyond just material gains.

The Challenge of Affordability

While the benefits of broadband are indisputable, affordability remains a barrier, with expenditure on telecommunication services often surpassing other utilities like water or electricity. Policy interventions are needed to keep prices within reach.

Infrastructure issues

In addition to affordability issues, there are also substantial challenges with infrastructure – both building and maintaining. The cost per user for a rural network is significantly higher than in urban areas due to low population density.

Need for policy interventions

A well-designed rural broadband strategy involves not just the rollout of infrastructure but also ensuring its affordability and sustainability through careful market management. Government support is mandatory including through subsidies, good regulations, and partnerships with private sector firms.

Fostering digital skills

Apart from addressing logistics, there is a need to foster digital skills among rural populations. This requires educating people on what the internet can offer, how to stay safe online, basic troubleshooting, and optimizing internet use for their unique needs.

Importance of ongoing research

Finally, ongoing research into the barriers and solutions for rural broadband connectivity plays a significant role. Keeping up-to-date with the rapid changes in technology and understanding the distinct needs of each community assists in forming a tailored approach to broadband rollout.

The Takeaway

Undeniably, equal and affordable access to broadband is fundamental to sustainable economic growth. Rural America may be lagging right now but with targeted policies and collective effort, it holds great potential to bridge the digital divide and forge an expansive way forward. The impact is clear: when you increase connectivity in rural areas, you promote economic development and improve quality of life. The ubiquity of reliable internet services is a national concern that calls for immediate action.