In today’s age, we are consumed by technology. Both rural and urban areas alike rely heavily on the internet for communication, sales, news, education, and so much else. Broadband internet service has become pivotal to the world economy as it moves online. However, access to the internet can be disparate when comparing rural and urban.
First off, let’s define what broadband is. It is simply high-speed internet usually implemented by laid fiber-optic cables underground. Over the years, the definition of broadband has evolved to more accurately reflect current Internet usage trends, such as higher-bandwidth services and multiple in-home devices. Most of these areas that receive broadband are urban and receive an advantage over rural areas without.
There arevarious federal departments that define rural differently. The US government has used at least 15 different definitions for the word rural, and that can cause issues for the people that live in these areas — like lack of access to broadband internet.
Despite the progress made by the United States in increasing broadband coverage, there is still a long way to go in terms of rural broadband. In early 2019, one effort was made by that of the C Spire Rural Broadband Consortium. Including companies like Microsoft, it sought to tackle the rural broadband issue by implementing high-speed internet access throughout the region.
The internet has not only become a staple in our lives but that of the world. It affects our jobs, our schools, our healthcare, our businesses, and even our agriculture, yet the government does not see it as a big issue. It seems as though if we can provide broadband internet access to every part of the country, then it would benefit the US economically. Well, it seems that of the opposite. There are fewer people in rural areas, so the cost of serving each customer will increase, therefore making it not sound in an economic sense. For example, if there are 200 households in a suburb that require 10 miles of fiber-optic cables, the cost per home is way than that of a rural area with 15 homes requiring the same 10 miles of fiber-optic cables. This causes the company providing broadband internet service to have a longer return on an investment period, or the customers needing the service to pay a higher price for it. Most companies cannot handle a long return on investment and customers can’t pay those prices. It is cheaper to just serve a rural community by way of a fixed wireless rather than install broadband cables.
In the government, it seems as though support for rural broadband is strong. However, there is one problem, and it is called Form 477. There are many programs, both federal and state, that are put in place to figure out where rural broadband exists, yet it seems as though this data is far from great. The FCC, or the Federal Communications Commission, and the rest of the government have long relied on Form 477 data to see broadband service accessibility. Even though the FCC is aware of its flaws, it has continued to let it stand. This is yet another reason why broadband has not been installed in many rural areas.
Rural broadband access is and continues to be an issue. The divide between rural and urban exists in many areas, including that of the internet. The disadvantages resulting from limited broadband access in rural areas will continue to grow in prominence as bandwidth demands expand and broadband definitions change. The government relies on incorrect data, continuing to ignore this problem while internet providers do the bare minimum in providing internet access to rural areas. In the end, as technology grows and changes, those who are not up to date on it will surely be left behind.