RS1: Rural America

Progress on Broadband Adoption in Rural America

In the article, “Progress on Broadband Adoption in Rural America,” James N. Barnes and Kalyn Coatney discuss the need for rural America to adopt broadband as well the roadblocks that keep this necessity from becoming a reality. It turns out that convincing rural communities of the benefits of broadband is only half the problem, for there is a whole host of other challenges hindering the spread of this technology. It is noted that American consumers pay significantly more for slow broadband speeds than those living in other countries. This is often because of regional monopolies that control large portions of the market. There aren’t many policies that prevent this from occurring, and the policies that do exist tend to favor the corporations. The authors acknowledged that “Reforming these types of competition policies might not be popular with private provider incumbents, but rural citizens could benefit considerably” (para. 7). Government involvement in these issues has proven to show positive results; a 2009 study by Hague and Prieger is included in the article, and it “found that when local governments were involved in the supply of broadband services more knowledge of local barriers were identified and greater accountability for services provided existed” (para. 8). According to the authors, the digital divide “represents the lower rural household broadband adoption rates compared to urban household adoption rates” (para 9). Two main factors contribute to this divide: broadband speed differences and a lack of infrastructure. Slow broadband speeds in rural areas reduce the incentive for people to adopt broadband, and a lack of infrastructure prevents speeds from ever increasing. To incentivize a positive view of broadband in rural areas, programs such as BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) introduced “Experiential Learning Projects”. This “educational training focused on helping people understand the possibilities of how access to broadband could improve their lives” and was “designed to provide people with experiences that cement the benefits of adopting broadband” (para. 11). The article is concluded by providing insight into some of the positive developments that have occurred in the world of broadband in recent times. For example, “The more than $7 billion in ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding has created thousands of miles of new fiber lines” and “Households and businesses have been connected more than ever” (para. 17). The authors finish by emphasizing the importance of experiential projects in playing “a key role in driving rural broadband adoption” because “learning how to use these networks will be fundamental to taking advantage of an updated broadband infrastructure” (para. 18).

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