Why Rural America Still Can’t Access the Best of Broadband

It is needless to say how far we have come in the field of broadband dispensation. According to BroadbandNow Research’s Q2 2019 report, about 93.9% of the US population have access to the basic broadband speeds of 25 Mbps. However, this ratio drops as the speed increases, with only 19.7% of the entire country having the liberty to go for 1 Gig wired speeds. What’s worse is that these lucky households have a concentration in the urban areas mostly, where the opportunity of lightning-fast speeds exists. Then, what of the rural areas, you ask? What about the Americans who reside in places located on the outskirts of cities, away from the wired grids? 

The answer to that last question has become an urgent national problem that needs to be solved. But first, we have to dissect the issue to actually get at the bottom of its severity. This article will take you through the importance of broadband technology in today’s world, then offer you an insight into the rural-urban divide, and finally propose means of closing that gap. Stay tuned.

Broadband Technology – On the Rise

What is broadband? Back in the early 2000s, FCC claimed that broadband is an internet connection that could carry data over a speed of more than 200 Kbps, at least in one direction, which could either be upstream/uploading or downstream/downloading. This particular figure was modified years later to designate 5x faster connections with at least 4 Mbps downtime and 1 Mbps uptime. 

The Federal Communications Commission didn’t stop there. More recently, in 2015, they upped the minimum requirement for broadband to be 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, pressurizing the internet service providers across the States to come up to the par with the latest developments. Though it may not seem like it, this was a necessary move.

You see, people’s demands for high-speed broadband have gone over the chart. With the advent of cloud computing and smart AI algorithms, businesses and residences have upgraded their digital needs, coming far from the initial days of dial-up. To respond to this clamor, ISPs have also started experimenting with high-end infrastructures, like fiber optic and 5G home internet. Certain providers like Cox offer hybrid cable-fiber speeds to a majority of communities at affordable prices. You can check out its plans at https://www.localcabledeals.com/Cox/Internet to get an idea about what lies in the telecom market for an average consumer.

Though broadband technology may be racing at a lightning-fast pace and visualizing a future of seamless connectivity, its promise only seems to address the urban folk. The next section will show you how.

The Great Broadband Divide – Urban vs. Rural

Let me throw another appalling fact your way. A total of 25 million people in the US remain deprived of a basic broadband access, and out of those, 19 million live in rural areas. It sounds like an unfair distribution, right? Even though the government has subsidized more than $22 billion dollars to the telecom sect with the basic goal of improving broadband provision in rural America, still the stats haven’t budged much. 

While on the other side, more fiber-optic lines are being installed along the San Francisco bay, with AT&T erecting advanced 5G beamforming towers in select metropolises. 

We need to know what fuels this digital divide. Why do rural areas still can’t enjoy the best of broadband technology? 

One of the major reasons why this happens is because of distance limitations. First, the ISPs are more inclined towards installing new communication lines in areas that have a higher population density. The more customers there are to share the installation costs, the more affordable the pricing. As such, there are around 2000 consumers every square mile in the urban areas in contrast to 10 in rural. 

Second, the sheer labor of laying down lines in the over-stretched urban lands is significant and time-consuming. Third, as the length of communication lines extends further between the houses, the data signals drop in speed just after three miles, which is why people in rural areas receive terrible broadband speeds.

Possible Solutions to the Broadband Inequality

Without widespread broadband access in the rural areas, people can’t get telemedicine, run a decent e-commerce venture, take online courses, or even digitally upgrade their farming technology. This severe absence threatens to increase unemployment rates, destabilize the economy and put a halter on the development of the US as a homogenous nation. 

So, what can we do about it? 

The reasonable move would be to set a goal for eradicating the rural broadband gap by 2022. Then, bringing private sector capital moguls and the public sector regulatory financial support on one page to drive investment in innovative internet technologies, which could be a mix of wireless and be easily distributed to rural households at low costs. Next, extensive partnerships could be formed between small-scale and large-scale telecom companies, so that a universal network of provider would form and bring urban closer to rural. 

The possibilities of improvement in the rural broadband access are endless if only the telecom sector sees the problem and sets its mind to solving it.

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