It was possible to live our life effortlessly without any internet connection in the 20th century. But, now, in the 21st century, with the advancement of technology, the internet has become an integral part of our lives. Even in the commercial field, a high-speed internet connection is considered as important as oxygen. Yet, you might be surprised to learn that more than 34 million Americans are living without it.
Digital Divide Between Rural and Urban
Well, if we talk about urban areas, only 4 percent of people in urban areas are affected by a lack of access to broadband. Still, the picture is completely different in rural areas. More than 39 percent of people are suffering from this problem. This digital discrimination does not mean that people living in rural areas are unable to access the internet. Internet can still be delivered through telephone lines or by satellites; however, the speeds available are limiting factors not just for people who want to view Netflix, but also students and businesses.
Limited access to a broadband connection means that schools situated in rural areas have more limited access to online content, such as articles and videos as compared to students in areas with broadband.
While many schools are integrating tablets and online course materials into lesson plans, allowing students more up-to-date access to news and information and teachers easier grading and the ability to share information with parents, which rural schools have to make due with old textbooks and wasting expensive paper and printing materials..
Moreover, the cost of the internet connection may be higher in rural areas while also offering less bandwidth, meaning that what is available may be unreliable and cost-prohibitive.
When it comes to business, there is less opportunity to grow outside of the area you operate your business. Most businessmen do not show any interest in setting up their business in rural areas. From a businessman’s perspective, while rent may be more expensive in a city, without without a high-speed internet connection you won’t be competitive.
Moreover, entrepreneurs face problems when so many people use online software to conduct meetings, keep in touch with mentors, manage projects using Asana, downloading documents, and other tools that have become the norm. Freelancers too may not be able to upload or download documents, receive payment, or adequately communicate with clients, leaving them with less work or a bad reputation.
Decrease the Number of Online Customers
Amazon and other retail stores have caused many stores to close their physical locations that were once found in rural areas. More people now rely on online shopping to receive basic necessities. Research has shown that the number of online customers in rural areas is greater than in urban areas, but due to limited internet access, and without a physical retail location, people may be unable to buy what they need. This means people won’t be spending money on their goods, which hinders the economy.
Main Reason Behind Limited Access to Broadband
For a broadband connection, your internet service providers has to lay down fiber optic cables to transmit data. The cost of this is significant as wires are often buried under the ground, the cables are complex, and there aren’t enough customers to pay for the installation of services, meaning that no businesses are interested in providing internet to rural consumers.
Adding more wireless options has been considered, but you can’t take for granted the physical size of America is quite large, and there are hills, trees, and the curve of the planet that means you would still have to put up a large number of transmission towers, which, too, is cost prohibitive. Think about the last time you went for a drive into the country, just a few miles outside of your local city, and quickly lost your cellular connection. The issue is similar for offer wireless internet. Even inside of your own home, a wireless router may be unable to transmit reliably through just a couple of walls.
Efforts are being made to try and address these issues, but they are simply not coming fast enough. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a practical and affordable solution.