The following was written by Mark McElroy, who serves on the Board of Directors for Connected Nation, as part of National Digital Inclusion Week (May 7-11). To request an interview with Mr. McElroy or if you have questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I live on the wrong side of the Digital Divide –that part of the country that’s left out of all the opportunities many can enjoy daily. Those include access to opportunities in education, healthcare, jobs, and more. For me, running a family farm, it can mean access to services that can help me improve my business such as precision farming and untapped markets.
Here’s what the data shows about people living in rural areas: According to a 2017 Federal Communications Commission Broadband Deployment Report, “92% of the total U.S. population has access to both fixed terrestrial services at 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and mobile LTE at speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps but for those living in rural areas only 68.6% of Americans have access to both services, compared to 97.9% of urban dwellers.”
For nearly 15 years, and as part of the Connected Nation team, I’ve aspired to do my part to help close the digital divide. I live in a rural area, but I’m not part of the fortunate 68.6% that can access fixed services at the 25/3 level.
To be clear, no one has asked me to speak as a representative for the rural residents who are not part of the 68.6%. Regardless, I want to point out the impracticality of considering mobile LTE service at the 5/1 level a relevant residential solution for the 31.4% of us. LTE service in the 20s can be enjoyed from our farm, but the data caps/throttled service in the business model makes it a moot point.
My point is this. Speaking as someone who lives and works on the wrong side of the digital divide, the need for a rural solution remains. I understand the relationship of household densities to Return on Investment (ROI) for providers.
However, I can see seven homes on the horizon without leaving my house. My neighbors and I may be a challenge to serve, but we aren’t impossible. We remain hopeful.
About the Author: Mark McElroy is a member of Connected Nation’s Board of Directors. Mark brings with him more than 20 years of experience in strategic leadership for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations and provides a unique perspective on the relationship of technology to public policy, business practices, and culture.
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