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It's been nearly two decades since President Bill Clinton spoke about the “digital divide” to the American public.
Since then, researchers across the country have spent millions to research the importance of internet access in US communities.
As it turns out, when Clinton suggested that reliable internet access would soon become less a luxury and more an essential resource for all Americans, he was right.
While the economic benefits of broadband access have long been suspected, only in recent years has research shown the connection between reliable broadband and successful communities.
In 2016, a groundbreaking study showed the key economic benefits of broadband internet access and highlighted one in particular: the link between internet access and better labor market outcomes for subscribers.
That same study concluded that addressing the digital divide would require a change in legislative policy, “including policies to foster more competition between broadband providers.”
It further suggested that with legislative support, struggling rural communities could leverage broadband internet to restore economic stability. Such a change in legislature occurred in 2017, when President Trump signed two executive orders designed to spur investment in rural broadband. And it's working.
If the recent increase of broadband adoption in rural communities tells us anything, it's that, contrary to popular belief, the 39% of Americans living in rural areas aren't offline by choice, but rather by years of country-wide neglect.
Communities Are Making a Comeback with Better Broadband
The lack of broadband internet access available in rural communities has separated rural America from its urban counterparts. That said, it isn't really small-town style to sit around and do nothing, so America's small communities are leveraging recent access to better broadband to empower members of their local communities.
Despite national policies shaping (or failing to shape) the economies of rural US communities, as one expert puts it, “what happens on the local level remains influential.” In one co-authored report, both experts expressed agreement with Obama's 2016 contention that a better labor market is both key to encouraging economic growth in rural America and made possible with broadband. According to that study, the entire country should be pulling for the comeback of rural America, because the nation–urban and rural communities alike–depend on it.
“The nations slowing growth in labor productivity,” explains expert Joseph Parilla, “is a lingering economic concern, as it remains a critical source of productivity” for the country. Today, rural communities are increasingly adopting broadband technologies and stimulating their local economies in a number of ways. One study showed that in states with high percentages of rural residents, towns with the highest levels of civic engagement also had the most broadband subscribers.
Discovering Possibilities with Local Internet Service Providers
If there's one point on which every expert has agreed, it's on the issue of affordability. If members of a community can't afford a broadband subscription, then their respective economies wouldn't be able to support, maintain, or provide the service. As more local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) emerge, internet technologies are not only being offered in areas that they previously weren't, but at competitive and affordable rates.
Unlike big broadband, local ISPs can also offer individualized support and services to its small and unique customer base. For example, if there's a service issue, a local ISP can help you resolve the issue far quicker than a larger corporation. In many cases, if a customer service provider can't help you resolve the issue, they can send a technician out the very same day. It's just the nature of local business.
Additionally, local ISPs are powered by members of the communities they serve, so they have a vested interest in delivering cutting-edge technology to those communities. Local ISPs across the country are making innovative internet technologies available in more rural neighborhoods, which in turn, is keeping kids in school, parents at work, and the local economy as a whole.
At Fidelity Communications, the conversation about the power of broadband never stops, and the pursuit of the best in innovative tech is never quite finished.
For more information on getting broadband in your home, visit www.fidelitycommunications.com today.