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Broadband Access Remains a Utility Challenge for Rural America

Todd Carney's picture
Writer Freelance

Todd Carney is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications. He writes on many different aspects of energy, in particular how it...

  • Member since 2021
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  • May 26, 2022
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Business Insider reports issues that that utility providers are facing in being able to give access to internet access in rural parts of America, that much of the rest of the US has access to.

The FCC has reported that about 25 percent of Americans who live in rural areas, cannot get broadband internet. The US government, largely through the FCC, has earmarked billions of dollars for providing necessary infrastructure so internet companies can set up access to broadband internet. All of this monetary investment incentivizes companies to market to rural areas, which often includes further investments in infrastructure. It can be worth it for these companies to add on to investments, since they will get many new customers and can turn a profit.

It is necessary for the federal government and major internet corporations to step in, because otherwise it would be up to individual small towns. These towns can have as few as several dozen people, some of whom do not want to use the internet, or at least broadband internet. Additionally, some towns are strapped for cash and do not have the experts on hand to just build new infrastructure on a whim.

Of course, even if the infrastructure is built and companies want to market to these communities, internet access is yet another utility that people need to pay for. This can be tough for some individuals, especially those that live in communities with weak economies. As a result, the federal government also provides subsidies for low-income families in rural areas.

While these programs generally work for rural America as a whole, there are some extremely small and remote communities, where the incentives offered by the government for cable companies are still not willing to serve certain communities, or they have to charge larger rates. Another issue is that in some communities, individuals and governments do not know to take advantage of these programs, so the government needs to do more to improve outreach and knowledge of the initiatives. Moreover, in some communities, internet companies need to access phone poles to set up the broadband connection, and sometimes some far removed phone company owns the poles, so it takes a while to get through bureaucracy.

Covid-19 underscored how important the internet was for new functions in life, but there are many other uses that people in non-rural areas engage in without second though. Rural communities throughout the US do not have this kind of access. This lack of access can serve as an impediment, so hopefully the government can continue to increase access.

 

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