High speed internet access, such as cable, fiber, or even DSL, is often critical to education as well as employment. Even though service is very important to people no matter where they live, the rural population is falling way behind in this access when compared to people that live in cities or the suburbs. In fact there is about a 35% difference between these too regions.
Studies show that 96% of households in urban/suburban areas have access to high speed internet connection. Only 61% of rural families have the same access. This equates to about a 35% difference according to a study from the Wall Street Journal. Now to quantify this percentage difference, over 20 million rural Americans are impacted. This is a huge discrepancy, and a major challenge for the long term development of our country.
So what exactly does high speed internet access mean? It is defined as being able to use “internet surfing, email, video streaming, and web graphics for more than one device at a time”. So the capacity needs to support multiple users. The type of high speed internet connections usually include cable, with Fiber as well as DSL. Cooper wire and satellite are considered to be slower.
Now this study has to do with access to high speed internet. This means that even if the rural household wanted the higher speed internet connection, and if they could pay for it, it is impossible for them to get it. There are just no options in their local community. So maybe the cable company never laid down the lines. Or companies such as Verizon, Comcast, and others never installed fiber-optics. So the end result is about 39% of families in rural America have zero access to high seed internet, and there is not one thing they can do about it.
You may ask, what is the big deal? Well it is a major concern. A few examples come to mind.
1) If a student has to do homework, research, or perform educational activities, then they may not be able to do that work effectively. Urban kids can, to the tune of 35% more frequently.
2) Someone considering working from home, or telecommuting from a rural community more than likely would not be able top do that without high speed internet connections.
3) Adults returning to school, or trying to gain new skills, will also face challenges if they try to take remote or online classes. This will impact their total household income.
Those a just a few challenges that may be faced by rural American vs. city dwellers. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of other examples as well as how this can be a negative for society; some may be minor inconveniences, but others are major barriers to income and/or building wealth or educational skills.
The 35% gap is a big number as well. As noted, that equates to tens of million of people. Many kids and students are impacted. Some studies even show that a household is more likely to live in poverty without access to the latest and greatest technology.
Another challenge is the cost of paying for cable internet connections or a fiber-optics line. Since the historical lack of high speed access has been there for years, the fact is that 39% of rural America may be behind right now. So they may need financial aid to pay for it.
Luckily some companies do offer assistance. There are low cost internet access programs from both phone and cable companies. There are also some government funded resources. The goods news is these programs do extend to rural America as well.
Unfortunately there is not much rural Americans can do to close this 35% gap.. We recommend talking to your local government to try to put pressure on the cable and telecommunication companies, as if they do that maybe they can somewhat “encourage” (or force!) corporations to respond, and lay the foundation for high speed internet access.