#244. More on Rural Broadband Access

Posted on | The Agurban

More on Rural Broadband Access

Amber Waves, a quarterly publication by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), “is the main source of economic research and analysis from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, providing timely information on economic and policy issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America.” The September 2009 issue included a feature entitled, “Broadband Internet Service Helping Create a Rural Digital Economy”. Information for the article was drawn from an ERS study, Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America.

Three key points of the article included:
* Broadband – high speed Internet – is less commonly used in rural than urban settings due to higher provision costs and more limited availability in rural areas.
* Rural counties with broadband Internet service in 2000 had greater subsequent employment and income growth than similar rural counties without service.
* Rural citizens, businesses, and communities credit broadband Internet use with providing social and economic benefits.

A couple of main points I took away from the article were in the areas of medicine and education. According to the study, “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.”

In regards to medicine, the report had this to say: Telemedicine and telehealth have been hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities, whether simply improving the perception of locally provided health care quality or expanding the menu of medical services. More accessible health information, products, and services confer real economic benefits on rural communities: reducing transportation time and expenses, treating emergencies more effectively, reducing time missed at work, increasing local lab and pharmacy work, and savings to health facilities from outsourcing specialized medical procedures. One study of 24 rural hospitals placed the annual cost of not having telemedicine at $370,000 per hospital.

We will continue to monitor the progress of broadband Internet access to all parts of our country. As shown in the ERS report, broadband access can have a definite impact on the health and well-being of rural America.