Broadband Benefits for Rural Areas

The expanding Internet has caused a shift in business behavior. Nowhere is the change more exciting than for the local rural economy. The emergence of the Internet, as a cheap infrastructure resource, changes job cost structure. Distance is now measured in bandwidth connection speeds. The “new economy” is having a profound impact on employment. Working in Cyberspace is a job opportunity that rural workers can and should exploit.

Rural Digital Economy: Online Activities

The integration of business and entrepreneurial activities into the rural digital economy varies from sector to sector and among economic players:

  • Telemedicine and telehealth have been hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities, whether by improving locally provided health care quality or by expanding the menu of medical services.
  • Online course offerings for students in primary, secondary, post-secondary, and continuing education programs have improved educational opportunities, especially in small, isolated rural areas. And interaction among students, parents, teachers, and school administrators has been enhanced via online forums, which is especially significant given the importance of ongoing parental involvement in children's education.
  • "Lone Eagles" are individuals who are able to conduct private consulting, investment activity, and other business pursuits from any location. While their numbers are small in rural communities, they tend to have high incomes and are sought by many communities. For rural areas, they are most common in locations having good communication and information infrastructure, such as broadband services, able to handle high volumes of data transmission.
  • Most employment growth in the U.S. over the last several decades has been in the service sector, a sector especially conducive for broadband applications. Broadband allows rural areas to compete for low- and high-end service jobs, from call centers to software development, but does not guarantee that rural communities will get them.
  • New markets for existing rural businesses, including farms, also hold some promise. Niche markets, such as organic farm goods, are one example.
  • Rural businesses have been adopting more e-commerce and Internet practices, improving efficiency and expanding market reach. Some rural retailers use the Internet to satisfy supplier requirements. The farm sector, a pioneer in rural Internet use, is increasingly comprised of farm businesses that purchase inputs and make sales online.

From: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Telecom/demandservice.htm
Last accessed: 02/01/11

The lack of high-speed service in the rural areas totally extinguishes the possibility of new small business start-ups.