Iowa Public Television


Broadband Lacking in Rural America

posted on May 2, 2001

There is much talk about the so-called "digital divide." Generally, the "divide" is defined by economics -- the rich have digital access and the poor do not. But the definition also can be applied to geography.

When it comes to access to the Internet, there is a profound difference in the spectrum of service enjoyed by the urban "haves" and the dearth of options available to rural "have nots."

The solutions to narrowing the divide are not always simple or cost-effective. But, the federal government now is offering incentives to those who will bring high-tech to rural computer users.


A Department of Commerce study last fall, says 12% of urban households use high speed, broadband Internet access. The same study says 7.3% of households in the country have access to the same technology.

To encourage development of high-speed Internet access in rural areas, the federal government plans to offer financial incentives. During a one-year pilot program, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service will offer $100 (M) million dollars in low-interest loans to companies that invest in broadband infrastructure in communities of fewer than 20,000 people.

And it just may take some sort of incentives for such development to occur. Industry analysts say "big players" who bring in hard-wired technology -- through telephone or cable lines -- are just not interested in small towns.

Andy Fuertes, Allied Business Intelligence: "The main reason large carriers haven't addressed the rural community is because the cost of doing so is prohibitive. As a result I wouldn't expect carriers to saturate the more populated areas and then pursue the rural areas. I think they'll probably let those go."


Tags: agriculture Internet news rural technology