Having access to reliable, high-speed, and affordable internet connections is essential for any economic activity in the country, especially in their rural communities. Because there are a lot of diverse industries in rural areas like agricultural production, manufacturing, mining, or forestry that require having an internet connection for smooth functioning of their activities. The internet also acts as a catalyst for prosperity in rural areas by enabling communications between rural households, schools, healthcare centers, or even markets around the world. Unfortunately, only a surprisingly low percentage of Americans in rural areas and tribal lands have access to an internet connection, as compared to urban areas in the US.
Service providers in the rural areas
ISPs are mostly available in the urban and metropolitan cities in the US and Comcast is one of them. It is much easier to handle the provision of internet connection to densely populated areas than it is for unpopulated areas. The demand for the internet is higher in urban areas, which is why the infrastructure of a network connection is always readily available. Comcast’s Xfinity internet is widely available in 39 states in the US and it is mostly available for internet users residing in urban or suburban areas. Otherwise, the internet service providers would need to dig trenches and install wires under the ground just to provide an internet connection to an area or household.
Normally, the rural and more isolated areas in the U.S. are usually only served by one internet provider, whether they have dial-up or some other connection type. These providers offer slower speeds than most ISPs in more populated locations. Because they are the only ones in the community, there isn’t any pressure for them to innovate and upgrade their infrastructure to give users higher speeds for their internet.
Pew Research – internet access in rural areas
There was a Pew Research survey conducted from January 25 to February 8, 2021, where it was reported that roughly 7 in 10 Americans residing in rural areas, which makes it 72%, said that they had a broadband internet connection. This shows a 9 percentage increase in home broadband adoption among rural Americans since 2016. Back then only 63% of the American rural residents had a high-speed internet connection in their homes.
Internet users in rural communities are reported to go online less frequently than internet users residing in urban areas. 88% of the adults from the rural areas, which makes it 8 in 10 adults, claimed that they use the internet on a daily basis. Moreover, 23% of the internet users in rural areas reported that they go online constantly.
Broadband internet connection can prove to have a potential boost towards overall economic growth. Despite there being lesser availability of broadband internet connections in rural areas, research has reported a positive impact on local economies with the broadband internet connection.
- For one, it will be easier for consumers to shop for goods and services with their broadband internet connection. This ability to shop online will help them to save money since these savings have been reported to have a positive economic impact.
- Having internet access can help in increased matches between jobs and workers, which would make the hiring process for local businesses much easier. It can lead to an increase in the pool of applicants, potential customers, and suppliers. Other than that, it can also reduce the cost of sharing information and ideas that are beneficial to businesses.
- Broadband internet can also create economic benefits for distance learning. Since students have to travel very far to get to their educational institutions from rural areas, the internet could help resolve this by giving them an option of distance learning.
- In the telemedicine arena, there is a possibility of hospital cost savings, transportation savings for patients, and an increase in remote service provision. Mobile technology and access to telehealth will turn out to be incredibly critical for remote or far-off households that require immediate attention.
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Getting a broadband internet connection to rural areas is very costly, but the potential payoff is high. There are more benefits to having a broadband internet connection in rural areas. Internet connection in rural areas could prove to have major economic benefits for the whole country. Businesses could easily reach out to their potential clients and suppliers, students could go for remote learning instead of having to travel hundreds of miles just to get to their schools, and so on.