May 20, 2024

Bridging the Digital Divide: Internet Access in Rural Areas


Bridging the Digital Divide: Internet Access in Rural Areas

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Having a home internet connection has become a fundamental necessity for everyone of all ages. From applying to jobs, education and paying for bills, it’s been proven that having an internet connection is not a luxury or convenience anymore.

While urban and suburban areas have been enjoying high speed internet, rural and remote areas have been left in the dark. This gap is often referred to as the digital divide; those who have access to the internet and those who do not. 

The lack of reliable high speed internet access in rural and remote areas has been an ongoing issue that needs to be solved. Unfortunately, there’s some difficult challenges ahead to close the divide, but it’s not impossible. 

The Difficult Challenges Ahead

There’s no doubt about it, closing the digital divide is going to be challenging. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is not there and it’ll be expensive. Here’s the challenges that rural residents are facing right now:

1. Lack Of Infrastructure

The number one challenge is the lack of existing infrastructure. It’s simply not there in rural areas. Internet providers have little incentive to expand into rural areas because there’s less customers and the topography is challenging compared to urban areas.

2. High Costs

Infrastructure, labor and all the required permits are expensive for internet providers to invest in. In rural areas, there’s less customers and therefore less opportunities for internet providers to get their money back. At the end of the day they’re still businesses and need to survive too.

3. It Will Take A Lot Of Time

Building new instructure takes time. A lot of time. Sometimes years and installation can be extensive outside and inside your home. That’s why fiber internet providers take so long to expand their coverage areas. Verizon Fios is known for taking forever in expanding into new neighborhoods and had actually paused expansions for a while.

4. Geographic Barriers

Location can be a barrier by itself. Geographical barriers like mountains, forests and rivers; the beautiful area you’ve purposely moved to can complicate installing new infrastructure. It will be more involved for internet providers to get out to you.

Short & Long Term Solutions

These challenges are indeed difficult, but there are short and long term solutions. From real investment in infrastructure to more community hotspots and networks; there are solutions.

1. Real Investment In Infrastructure

A long term solution is proper investment. It needs to happen. Local governments must allocate funding to subsidize the cost of new internet infrastructure installation in rural areas. This investment is absolutely crucial for bridging the digital cap and ensuring everyone in the community has access to the internet.

2. Utilize Mobile Solutions

A short-term solution is using mobile technology where it’s feasible. You likely already know if it’s an option for you. How is your smartphone data? If it’s great, then it’s an option for you. This won’t work in very remote areas, but is absolutely possible in suburban and rural areas. It’s a cost-effective solution that leverages existing technology.

3. More Community Hotspots & Networks

Communities shouldn’t depend on for profit companies to service their homes, especially if it has been a long-standing battle. Members of the community, local businesses and local government can come together to establish their own internet hotspots. It’s not ideal but its more sustainable than simply waiting.

author avatar
Bernard - Side-Line Staff Chief editor
Bernard Van Isacker is the Chief Editor of Side-Line Magazine. With a career spanning more than two decades, Van Isacker has established himself as a respected figure in the darkwave scene.

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