Access to broadband, or reliable and high-speed internet service, has become integral for Americans to conduct business and connect to each other. Yet, millions of Americans go without broadband access — most of them in rural communities. Rural areas are less likely to be wired for broadband services and tend to have slower internet speeds than the rest of the country.
According to the FCC’s latest report, 14.5 million Americans don’t have broadband, 11 million of whom live in rural areas. In fact, experts believe the true figure could be twice that or more.
In a Pew Research Center survey, 1 in 4 rural residents said access to high-speed internet was a major problem in their area.
The USDA reports that 25% of U.S. farms have no access to the internet.
Broadband enables a thriving, vital community — opening the door to education, health care, tools to address climate change and produce food more sustainably, and economic prosperity. It’s not just a luxury, but rather a lifeline.
Federal funding of at least $80 billion is needed to fill the gap in poor infrastructure. However, funding is limited, so government investment in technology infrastructure must be coordinated and informed by data in order to deploy solutions effectively and efficiently. One way to support coordination and efficiency is through improved mapping of broadband coverage. More accurate and granular data can help identify service gaps in order to efficiently deploy scarce government resources to the areas that need it most. The Broadband DATA Act starts to address this problem.
The private sector is also working to raise awareness, advocate for, and take action in support of expanding broadband access. Land O’Lakes, Inc. is convening organizations and leaders from the private sector in order to build strong rural communities positioned for competitiveness and connection now and in the future. So far, we have convened more than 145 companies and organizations across sectors — including agriculture, health care and technology — to form the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition. The coalition advocates for policies that bring high-speed internet infrastructure to areas in need, and its members contribute their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental wellness services, job opportunities and more.
You can find more information about the state of rural broadband and ways to raise awareness via the American Connection Project. And, if you’re searching for a spot to connect to high-speed internet, find Wi-Fi hotspots here.