The Urban-Rural Internet Divide

Access to high-speed Internet makes a huge difference in day-to-day life. The digital divide between urban and rural communities means some rural communities could be left behind.

1 minute read

June 19, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Internet Cables

ThomBal / Shutterstock

In many rural communities, reports Jennifer Levitz, broadband "lags behind in both speed and available connections."  

Levitz begins an article explaining the rural digital divide by describing the example of Washington County, Missouri, where customers pay $170 million a month for "satellite internet service too slow to upload photos, much less conduct business."  According to Levitz, "only a fraction of Washington County’s 25,000 residents, including Ms. Johnson, have internet service fast enough to stream videos or access the cloud, activities that residents 80 miles away in St. Louis take for granted."

Levitz expands the scope of this examination of infrastructure by writing that poor rural Internet is "both a cause and a system" of the "travails" of small-town America. "About 39% of the U.S. rural population, or 23 million people, lack access to broadband internet service—defined as 'fast' by the Federal Communications Commission—compared with 4% of the urban residents," writes Levitz. There are plenty of examples for how poor Internet service negatively impact equality of life, from schools to 911 dispatch centers to hospitals to the entrepreneurial efforts of private citizens.

The article includes a lot more detail on the difficulties of building-out high-speed internet infrastructure to all the rural communities around the country. 

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