You might not believe how greatly the widespread introduction of broadband internet to rural areas in the United States can impact communities and the economy. This move could potentially help improve life quality, boost local and regional economies, assist children’s education, provide better access to healthcare services and enable new job opportunities. And yet, as of 2020, 14.5 million rural Americans still lack access to this essential service. Could the solution be as simple as a universal rollout of broadband?
The Rural-Urban Digital Divide
Firstly, let us address a significant ongoing issue in the United States: the digital divide between rural and urban areas. While 79% of homes in urban parts of the country are enjoying access to high-speed internet, only 63% of those in rural areas have the same privilege to high speed rural internet, according to a Pew Research Center study. These numbers underscore a substantial gap that can result in numerous disparities.
Improved Quality Of Life
High-speed internet is so deeply embedded in everyday life today that it’s challenging to imagine surviving without it. From paying bills online to video-conferencing with distant loved ones, from streaming movies or music to online shopping — these are all activities you easily enjoy with broadband at your disposal. The introduction of these services in rural areas would instantly boost the general quality of life for residents.
A comprehensive broadband service can positively impact rural economies by making them more competitive and opening doors for local businesses. The increased connectivity offers businesses larger consumer bases and pushes for overall economic growth through stimulating productivity, innovation, and job creation.
Broadband and Education
Education significantly benefits from broadband access. Students in rural areas would have better access to educational resources, and e-learning opportunities. In an age where more education happens online, such a tool becomes crucial for students’ overall development and success.
Generation of Employment
Rolling out broadband to rural areas would create new job opportunities within the community. The infrastructure build-out for broadband needs skilled technicians, installation professionals, maintenance staff, customer service representatives, among other roles. This factor could significantly decrease current levels of unemployment in these areas.
Better Access to Healthcare Services
High-speed internet facilitates better access to telemedicine services and online medical consultations. Especially now, when physical distancing is necessary because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and general practitioners are limiting their face-to-face interactions, broadband proves to be an invaluable asset for rural healthcare systems.
Fostering Social Cohesion
Providing high-speed internet to rural locations can help foster social cohesion. It can connect isolated communities to the wider world, promote interactive dialogue, facilitate online social interactions, and make residents feel less secluded.
Facilitates Remote Work
With the increasing acceptance of remote work culture post-pandemic, broadband internet in rural areas can enable more people to work from home. This step could mean the difference between keeping a job and losing one in this new work environment.
Growth of E-Commerce
E-commerce would experience significant growth in rural areas with broadband access. Rural customers would gain access to a wider range of goods available online that might not be available locally.
Efficient Farming Practices
Internet connectivity provides farmers with access to agricultural technology like smart farming practices using IoT devices and mobile apps which can effectively monitor resources, predict weather patterns, and ultimately increase crop yields.
Broadband would provide rural residents with a variety of online entertainment options. Streaming platforms for movies, music, TV shows, video games, hobbyist forums – the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Enhancing Government Services
Government services can be easily accessed and availed with broadband. Local government bodies can efficiently deliver services and interact with their residents more transparently.
Preserving Cultural Identity
High-speed internet can help rural communities keep their cultural identity alive by showcasing their talents and traditions to the world, thus promoting cultural exchange and understanding.
Overcoming Geographic Isolation
Broadband effectively shrinks distances. Even if you live in a remote area, you can still feel connected to the rest of the world. It can help in overcoming geographic isolation and related frustrations.
The benefits overstate the gravity of having broadband internet access in rural America. The introduction of such a service could serve as a lifeline to so many who still lack this vital tool in today’s digital world. It’s time to bridge this divide by equipping rural regions in the country with reliable high-speed internet – an investment that promises manifold returns for the economy, education, healthcare services, social interconnectivity and enhances overall quality of life.