The internet is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s a new, digital age, and now more than three billion people use the internet on a regular basis for work, school, and play. Yet, there are still a surprising amount of people who have limited or no access to broadband internet services. They are often people in smaller towns or historic districts, where technology simply has not kept up with the rest of the world.
While the American government is working on closing the divide, 10 percent of Americans lack access to advanced broadband Internet, according to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report. Rural communities suffer the most, at a level disproportionate to the rest of our nation, with 39 percent of rural Americans lacking access to download speeds at 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps, which the FCC defines as the benchmark for broadband internet. In urban neighborhoods, only 4 percent of the population lacks access to advanced broadband services.
The report continues, saying, “The availability of fixed terrestrial services in rural America continues to lag behind urban America at all speeds: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.”
Americans living on Tribal lands and those located in U.S. Territories have it the worst, at 41 and 66 percent respectively.
There is no such thing as too small
Many towns may think they’re too small to worry about faster internet speeds. But that’s simply not the case. Everyone can use broadband speeds, and for the majority of us, it’s the difference between moving to a town or choosing another one. If your city lacks fast internet, you may be segmenting a population who would live there, but can’t sacrifice their internet speeds.
This isn’t limited to individuals and families, either. You may be missing out on business and economic growth. Cities who have a completed an available network are considered “job ready” by companies. When these businesses are looking to expand and add new branches, they are more likely to choose a municipality that already has existing infrastructures.
Lack of access for students
One of the ways lack of internet affects smaller communities is the impact on their young ones. Internet has become an important dynamic in our education system. The FCC states their short-term goal is to get 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff, yet 41 percent of schools, or 47 percent of our nation’s students, lack the connectivity to reach this goal.
The bottom line is that the internet is a crucial educational tool for people of all ages. From kindergarten to college students, even adults looking to further their education, broadband is instrumental to educating our population. Students who have access to advanced broadband internet are more likely to succeed. Those who lack it are more likely to fall behind.
The internet offers our students a universal resource of delivering specific content, with instant access. It is simply essential to a modern education.
But what about the cost?
Many cities who are considering implementing broadband themselves worry about the cost. But, funding can be found. The Obama administration has made $7 billion in investments in broadband, and there are many funding opportunities either through grants or loans. There are many other resources available to help your town find the revenue it needs to fund a broadband internet project. Depending on your town, it can be much more affordable than you think, even providing your city with a source of revenue.