With all the headlines about the lack of broadband in rural America, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all small towns are stuck in the dark age of dial-up internet.
The untold story of rural broadband is that over the past seven years, independent broadband networks have proliferated. Today, some of the fastest, most affordable internet in the country can be found in communities like Oskaloosa, Iowa (population:11,500); Powell, Wyoming (6,400); Red Wing, Minnesota (16,500); and Springfield, Vermont (9,000). According to a 2016 Federal Communications Commission data release, more than 1,100 rural fiber broadband providers operate networks of various sizes in some of the most remote parts of America, and more than 230 of those providers offer symmetrical (both download and upload) gigabit speeds.
Rural broadband deployment isn’t easy, but the biggest barriers to better connectivity are not simply geographical. Twenty-one states currently have laws—largely manufactured by telecom industry lobbyists—that impede independent ISPs trying to deploy fiber. Wilson, North Carolina, for example, was one of the first municipalities to build out a network and show that fiber to the home was possible in a rural town. But in response, lobbyists forced through legislation to restrict municipal networks in North Carolina. The absurd result of this was that the Wilson fiber network has actually had to shutter service for some of its customers.
[. . .]
Just how far and fast is rural gigabit-speed broadband being deployed? My organization, the Center on Rural Innovation, mapped it to learn more. Using the 2016 FCC data again, we found that more than 2,500 rural towns have access to fiber internet, representing more than 8.5 million rural Americans—a million more people than live in the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley. Of those, nearly 3 million have access to full symmetrical gigabit speeds. And though the gap between rural and non-rural fiber internet coverage is significant, it isn’t as overwhelming as many people think. More than 15 percent of rural Americans have access to fiber, compared with approximately 30 percent of people in suburban and urban areas.
Full article is HERE. This article mirror’s many of my thoughts on rural broadband band as critical infrastructure.
• “Small towns and rural counties have leveraged their ability to issue inexpensive bonds to build world-class infrastructure.”
• “. . .generously fund construction of this kind of infrastructure just like it does for water and sewer capacity.”
Read the whole article!