- Why does the gap exist?
- The Divide
- Gap during COVID-19
- Recent Improvements
- What Does This Mean For Rural Areas?
Since the debut of the World Wide Web, the internet has become a major part of every American’s life. However, these services are not always available to the residents in rural areas. While some improvements have been made in rural areas, they have not been enough. People in rural areas continue to be less likely to own smartphones, laptops, and tablets and are less likely to have a broadband connection. In the following passage, we will delve further into this divide.
The digital divide between the rural and urban areas exists because of several reasons. One of those reasons was the economic growth in the densely populated areas. Urban areas received a lot of attention from the public and private sectors, leaving rural areas out of the picture. Fiber internet connections were made readily available to the residents in urban areas and the necessary infrastructure was installed. The lack of infrastructure is also the reason why broadband subscription rates are higher for each customer in rural locations.
The lower population in rural locations also means that there is a lower demand for internet services. The lower number of potential customers offers companies less incentive to invest in building the infrastructure. This results in residents of rural areas being left with subpar options.
The demand is also lower in these areas because the residents are less familiar with computers and their uses. We could bridge the gap by increasing awareness about them through school programs and libraries.
In addition to these reasons, building the infrastructure for supplying rural areas with broadband services is very expensive. Installing fiber-optic cables underground can be very costly. However, local solutions could be improved to offer residentsbetter rural internet services.
The gap between rural and urban areas can be observed easily.
If we focus on the technology ownership between the two communities, residents in rural areas are less likely to own PCs or laptops when compared to urban residents. This also applies to the ownership of tablets.
In addition, residents in the urban areas are more likely to own multiple devices, along with a connection that enables them to access online applications. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center at the beginning of 2021, 30% of adults in rural areas were found to own a laptop, smartphone, PC, or tablet, in comparison to adults in urban areas.
The gap is also prevalent in the way the technology is used by residents in the two areas. Residents living in rural areas use the internet lesser than urban residents. According to the survey, 80% of the residents in rural areas use the internet daily, in comparison to almost 90% of the urban residents. The survey also informed us that 37% of urban residents stay online constantly, in contrast to 23% of rural residents.
All of these gaps make sense, once you see that the rural areas are not equipped with the necessary infrastructure to help them access the internet. While rural areas are more wired today, 24% of rural residents identified inaccessibility to the services as a major problem, while only 13% of urban residents faced this issue. This concern was observed in low-income and higher-income households.
Rural residents have access to the internet but are still unlikely to have access to a high-speed broadband connection.
Another factor that may hinder the adoption of internet services in rural households is their lifestyle. They are not very open to new technology and have mixed feelings towards new advancements. However, once they experience it, they embrace the technology with open arms.
Many areas, in both urban and rural areas, are susceptible to having spots with poor connectivity. Individuals who are living in rural areas are likely to have slower speeds. This is because the residents in these areas have fewer internet options available to them and are not equipped with reliable internet connections.
People are forced to find public spaces where they can access a reliable and consistent connection easily. Students had to drive to libraries and cafes to access the free Wi-Fi and participate in online classes. Stephanie Anstey, a middle school teacher, found her satellite connection very slow to be able to upload videos and resources for her students.
There are a lot of similar examples that helped bring the glaring gap to light. The pandemic forced people to remain in their homes and stay in lockdowns, which became increasingly problematic for the people. Internet connections are important for all Americans, living in all parts of the country, and they should be offered speedy and reliable choices.
Some companies have taken the initiative to begin providing the residents in rural areas with high-speed internet. Erie County has made plans with ISPs to use the ErieNet backbone system and offers fiber internet to all parts of the areas. This plan would not leave out the rural areas and is expected to be operational in the next few months.
The United States Department of Agriculture is also making an effort to offer internet access to rural areas in Arizona. They plan to spend over $19 million to begin a project that would focus on the installation of fiber-optic cables.
There are also plans to install a 19-mile fiber connection in Alaska. The Interior Telephone Company will use the $2.6 million grant to expand internet services to all areas. A community center will also be built to offer the residents free high-speed internet for up to 2 years.
To Wrap It Up
Rural residents require internet connections just like everyone else to be able to perform a variety of tasks. Immediate improvements in the infrastructure are necessary to offer the residents access to broadband connections.