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

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Data Stories
BusinessADAPT Conversion Toolkit Making In Roads With Equipment Manufacturers
September 22, 2016
A leading group of equipment manufacturers will soon release products that greatly enhance a grower’s ability to manage data across Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge Awarded $6.1M Investment From Sustainable Development Technology Canada
September 21, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has announced that it will receive $6,107,563 Read More
BusinessOPINION: Climate Corp. is the Jewel in Bayer’s Monsanto Deal Crown
September 15, 2016
PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integration for 2017 Season
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
Trending Articles
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Education and Big Data
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Market By 2022
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integration for 2017 Season
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
Deere R4023 cab
BusinessReport: Smart Agriculture Market Worth $19 Billion By 2021
September 6, 2016
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Smart Agriculture Market – With Forecast (2016-2021)” report to their offering. Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
IntegratorsThe Top 10 People In Precision Agriculture
August 15, 2016
Precision agriculture — with all its wacky technologies and advanced algorithms and such — remains a people business. So, without Read More
Latest News
Ian Yule, ISPA
ResearchLeading Ag Technology Researcher Appointed ISPA Preside…
September 26, 2016
Massey University’s Professor Ian Yule, one of the world’s leading agri-tech researchers, has been voted president of the International Society Read More
BusinessADAPT Conversion Toolkit Making In Roads With Equipment…
September 22, 2016
A leading group of equipment manufacturers will soon release products that greatly enhance a grower’s ability to manage data across Read More
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Educati…
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge Awarded $6.1M Investment From Sustainable …
September 21, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has announced that it will receive $6,107,563 Read More
BusinessGMO Aphids to Battle Weeds? It’s Not as Far Fetch…
September 21, 2016
No, I am not talking about optimizing aphids for a global agricultural armageddon. That would be silly. I’m talking about Read More
Young Corn Field
Best PracticesNitrogen: The Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
September 20, 2016
Precision ag can play a key role in reducing agriculture’s impact on greenhouse gases by limiting the nitrogen rate. Read More
W. Wade Robey, Raven
Industry NewsRaven Adds New Director Of Engineering
September 19, 2016
W. Wade Robey, Ph.D., joined Raven Applied Technology in August 2016 as Director of Engineering. In this role, he leads Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
BusinessOPINION: Climate Corp. is the Jewel in Bayer’s Monsanto…
September 15, 2016
PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest Read More
Sugarcane India
Market ImpactPlantations International Brings Precision Farming Tech…
September 14, 2016
Hong Kong-based plantation and farm management company Plantations International has announced it is moving its contact centre from the Indian Read More
Corn close up
Start-UpsLewis & Clark Ventures Raises $20 Million For Agric…
September 13, 2016
Lewis & Clark Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Series A and B stage investments, has announced $20 million Read More
BusinessSentera Joins Forces With Another Drone Distributor
September 13, 2016
Sentera has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Dynamic UAV Solutions North America, LLC, a new distributor in the commercial Read More
New Zealand agriculture
Market ImpactPrecision Ag Technology Helping New Zealand Agriculture…
September 12, 2016
New Zealand has an enormous opportunity to use technology as a means to support the economic growth of its agri Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Marke…
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
EventsPrecisionAg Vision Conference: Find Your Future in Phoe…
September 7, 2016
As the summer winds down and harvest begins in earnest, the time for immersing ourselves in future planning is getting Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integ…
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
DigiFarm
Start-UpsDigiFarm Puts The Precision In Precision Agriculture
September 6, 2016
While the general public adjusts to the idea of self-driving cars, in the agricultural world it’s old hat, writes Joe Read More
Craige Mackenzie
GrowersAgribusiness: Efficiency Through Precision Farming
September 6, 2016
Craige MacKenzie travelled recently to St Louis, MO, to receive the award of Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year from Read More