USDA: Rural Broadband Adoption Still Lagging Behind Urban Areas

With the issue of rural broadband access (or lack thereof) already in the news for positive reasons, a recent USDA-published Economic Brief entitled “Rural Broadband At A Glance” says that rural America “may be at a disadvantage in reaping the benefits of recent growth prospects because rural households are still less likely to subscribe to the Internet than are urban households.”

Citing stats from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, the report found that 62% of rural households and farms had home subscriptions to the Internet, compared with 73% of urban households. Additionally, with high-speed broadband service the current technology of choice among internet users, rural America is slightly behind its urban counterparts – 96% of urban to 92% of rural household broadband Internet subscribers.

However, according to Current Population Survey (CPS) data, rural Internet subscriber rates are not uniform across the country. On average, rural households in the Northeast and West are more likely to have some form of in-home access to the Internet, while households in the rural South are the least likely. According to several studies cited in the USDA brief, the regional disparity in subscriber rates reflects, to some degree, demographic differences such as income, education, and age. Rural household’s lower broadband subscriber rates may also stem from availability problems in rural settings.

And while broadband availability has become more prevalent in rural areas recently, many challenges remain for expanding service to households in remote areas.

According to the USDA, rural areas have, by their very nature, low population density, and lack the economies of scale that more densely populated urban areas enjoy. This makes the delivery of broadband Internet services more costly per customer, and 27% of rural respondents in the 2010 Census indicated it was too expensive in their area.

Mountainous terrain and increased exposure to harsh weather in some rural areas also drive up the per customer cost of delivering broadband service (although the Raven-designed Google high-tech internet balloons featured on the front page of PrecisionAg.com should help alleviate some of these concerns).

According to the report, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has been increasing broadband access in rural areas through four programs:

  1. RUS’s traditional rural telecommunication program for improving or expanding infrastructure. The program lent over $5 billion to rural telecommunication service providers for improving and maintaining their communication infrastructure between 2001 and 2010. As part of the loan application, RUS requires that communications facilities receiving RUS financial assistance be capable of providing businesses and households with broadband Internet service.
  2. RUS’s broadband loan program (authorized by periodic Farm Acts—the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 being the latest), which lent over $1 billion to rural providers to build broadband-capable facilities over the last decade.
  3. The Community Connect Broadband Grant Program, which services rural communities least likely to receive broadband service, has provided over $122 million in grants during the last 10 years.
  4. The joint U.S. Department of Commerce (USDoC), National Telecommunications and Information Administration and USDA RUS-administered broadband programs resulting from the 2009 stimulus bill provided more than $7.2 billion over 2 years. The USDoC administered $4.7 billion in grants for all parts of the country, while the USDA-RUS administered the remaining $2.5 billion for rural service providers and used these funds to leverage $2.3 billion in grants and $1.2 billion in loans. Most of the funds were used to provide new broadband systems, though $250 million was set aside for programs that directly attempt to encourage broadband Internet use.

In its conclusion section, the report states: “While research suggests that broadband has potential economic value for rural communities, variability in the availability and use of broadband infrastructure across the rural-urban landscape remains a challenge. A major source of the shortfall in rural broadband subscriptions, however, is household preference (driven, to a certain extent, by affordability). Federal, State and local programs are starting to address this issue since broadband’s perceived economic benefits cannot be fully achieved unless it is used. There is also a growing perception that the higher the proportion of households that subscribe to broadband, the greater the benefits for the national and regional economy.”

Go here to access a .pdf of the full USDA brief.

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
Davie Stephens combine
Data ManagementData Ownership: A Cautionary Tale
March 25, 2017
Davie Stephens, who lives in Hickman County, KY, farms more than 5,000 acres in Western Kentucky and Northwestern Tennessee. Stephens Read More
Bruce Rasa corn AgVoice app
Data ManagementVoice-To-Data Tool Shows Promise For Scouting
March 24, 2017
See it, speak it, record it. No pens, no paper, no lost information. In a nutshell that’s what Bruce Rasa Read More
Farmer with iPad
Data ManagementRegaining Control Of Field Data
March 23, 2017
When it comes to creating and building value with farmer-customers, service providers today have new allies to support their efforts. Read More
Ag Tech GlobalFarmobile Continues Connecting the Dots, adds Buyer to Data Store
March 21, 2017
Farmobile announced today that Guy Carpenter, a global risk and reinsurance specialist, will purchase enhanced data sets to help optimize Read More
Trending Articles
Downed Drone
DronesOpinion: The Agricultural Drone War Is Over, And They Lost
March 15, 2017
If you are late to the aerial imagery party and think that agricultural drones are the vehicle that are the Read More
Nebraska Farmer
Business ManagementA Right To Repair: Why Nebraska Farmers Are Taking On John Deere And Apple
March 10, 2017
There are corn and soy fields as far as the eye can see around Kyle Schwarting’s home in Ceresco, NE, Read More
Australia crop
Ag Tech GlobalMaking Precision Agriculture Work In Australia
March 6, 2017
Editor’s note: Reinder Prins is Market Development Manager for Cotton Growers Service in Wee Waa, NSW, Australia, where he is Read More
ScoutPro | ScoutPro
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Latest News
Davie Stephens combine
Data ManagementData Ownership: A Cautionary Tale
March 25, 2017
Davie Stephens, who lives in Hickman County, KY, farms more than 5,000 acres in Western Kentucky and Northwestern Tennessee. Stephens Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
PrecisionAg Institute9 Rules For Success As A Trusted Advisor
March 24, 2017
With support from the partner organizations of the PrecisionAg Institute, Millennium Research conducted a survey of 215 farmers from around Read More
Bruce Rasa corn AgVoice app
Data ManagementVoice-To-Data Tool Shows Promise For Scouting
March 24, 2017
See it, speak it, record it. No pens, no paper, no lost information. In a nutshell that’s what Bruce Rasa Read More
Farmer with iPad
Data ManagementRegaining Control Of Field Data
March 23, 2017
When it comes to creating and building value with farmer-customers, service providers today have new allies to support their efforts. Read More
Y-Drop 360 Yield
Tools & Smart EquipmentSplit Nitrogen Application: Where The 4Rs Get Real
March 23, 2017
When Illinois Grower Jeremy Wilson hit the farm conference circuit these past two years, one of his talks was always Read More
Hort TechSciFi in Ag: Robots Could Take Multi-Hybrid Planting Ne…
March 23, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Erich Eller ForeFront Ag Solutions with Ag Eagle-drone
Business ManagementForeFront Ag Solutions: Going Beyond The Averages
March 22, 2017
He’s flying essentially solo these days with business support from his wife Jennifer, but Erich Eller has big dreams for Read More
Ag Tech GlobalFarmobile Continues Connecting the Dots, adds Buyer to …
March 21, 2017
Farmobile announced today that Guy Carpenter, a global risk and reinsurance specialist, will purchase enhanced data sets to help optimize Read More
Valley Irrigation 8000 series corn
Hort TechValley Irrigation Now Exclusive OEM Provider of Trimble…
March 21, 2017
Valley Irrigation and Trimble announced that Valley Irrigation will become the exclusive OEM distributor of Trimble’s Irrigate-IQ precision irrigation solution, according Read More
Farmer Brad Hagen inspects cover crops
Business ManagementTop 5 Features Of A Good Sustainability Program
March 20, 2017
In a recent study, 60% of Iowa farmers agreed that their fertilizer dealers should do more to help them address Read More
Soil sampling Brazil
Ag Tech GlobalAn Overview Of Precision Ag In Brazil
March 17, 2017
Brazil is a huge player in international agriculture and precision farming is helping to increase productivity. With diverse crop production, Read More
Web Soil Survey soils map
Imagery/SensingCan The Web Soil Survey Help To Uncover Answers To Prec…
March 16, 2017
A farming magazine recently published an article of an interview of two experts discussing how understanding the topography of a Read More
Downed Drone
DronesOpinion: The Agricultural Drone War Is Over, And They L…
March 15, 2017
If you are late to the aerial imagery party and think that agricultural drones are the vehicle that are the Read More
Ag Retailer and Growers with tablet WinField United
Data ManagementEliminating Human Error In Precision Ag Data Documentat…
March 15, 2017
As precision ag consultants, we spend a lot of time working with clients to implement best management practices to acquire Read More
Curve Compensation ExactEmerge
ProfessionalsHow To Avoid Yield Loss Using Curve Compensation
March 15, 2017
Planting is often considered the most important step in a farming operation. For this reason, there have been many advancements Read More
IMPAC video
Hort TechHow Precision Agriculture Is Helping Farmers Win Over C…
March 14, 2017
“Your Food, Your Farmer” is a simple mantra, but one that resonates loudly with many of today’s consumers, writes Paul Read More
Brazil soil corn crop
Ag Tech GlobalA Precision Agriculture Project Starts With A Solid Fou…
March 13, 2017
I am a big fan of technologies in agriculture. I have become so impressed with the evolution of products and services Read More
Nebraska Farmer
Business ManagementA Right To Repair: Why Nebraska Farmers Are Taking On J…
March 10, 2017
There are corn and soy fields as far as the eye can see around Kyle Schwarting’s home in Ceresco, NE, Read More