Microsoft’s Plan to Expand Broadband Would Benefit Rural Americans
The growth of “broadband” (high speed) internet access has bestowed enormous benefits on the American economy. Roughly 300 million Americans have access to broadband–increasingly on mobile devices–which enables them to buy and sell goods and services, carry out business transactions, connect with clients, friends, and relatives, and obtain their entertainment, among other uses. In short, readily available and affordable broadband is viewed more and more as a necessity by many Americans, much like water, electricity, and basic transportation.
But too many Americans, particularly in rural areas, still do not have broadband access. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 34 million Americans–about 24 million of them in rural communities–do not have broadband. This means that many students, farmers, doctors, law enforcement officials, small businesses, and families across rural America are being denied the benefits of broadband access.
Counties without modern internet connections can’t attract new firms, and their isolation discourages the enterprises they have: ranchers who want to buy and sell cattle in online auctions or farmers who could use the internet to monitor crops. Reliance on broadband includes any business that uses high-speed data transmission, spanning banks to insurance firms to factories.
Private sector help is on the way, though.