To some, it may seem unfathomable that there are people living without internet access at home. So many in the U.S. are used to relying on high-speed broadband to stream movies, shop online, or video chat with friends and family.
And yet, 14.5 million people in rural communities across the country are forced to visit the nearest fast-food restaurant or gas station to get access to wi-fi. However, a lack of internet access goes beyond how people connect to loved ones or entertain themselves. At its core, it hinders economic growth, stifles education, and limits healthcare options.
In this post, we’ll reveal some of the issues caused by inequitable access in underserved communities. Plus, you’ll find out how CloudWyze is working to close the gap in North Carolina.
How a Lack of Internet Access Impacts Rural Communities
There is a large disparity whenever internet access is scarce or unavailable, and it impacts key services that help rural areas to grow and thrive. Here are some of the ways communities are impacted by a lack of access to high-speed internet.
Though problematic prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, the pandemic highlighted the equity issues around high-speed internet access for socioeconomically disadvantaged students and those living in rural areas.
Across the county, many students were unable to attend Zoom meetings or complete homework because they didn’t have internet access. In fact, rural students are twice as likely to report lacking the technology they need to complete schoolwork. And a 2020 study found that students without internet access or those forced to rely on a cellphone were half of a grade point behind their peers.
Our nation’s students—no matter their grade level or age—deserve reliable home internet to access this essential service. Doing so ensures greater opportunities and outcomes, not only for the student but for their community.
Economic Growth and Development
Lack of internet access has major implications for economic growth in rural areas. It’s virtually impossible to recruit employees or new businesses to an area without broadband. In an October 2020 survey, 36% of respondents said a lack of high-speed internet was a barrier to moving to rural areas.
And for small business owners, it’s tough to be competitive or grow without access to simple tools like email or even online billing software. In addition, businesses in broadband deserts are unable to offer telework or remote work, both of which are options that have a spillover effect on job creation.
However, the addition of high-speed internet in rural areas offers promising growth potential. According to The World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.21% jump in GDP growth in developed economies and a 1.38% jump in developing economies.
In rural areas, it can be quite the haul to seek the care of a medical professional. Rural residents often drive at least an hour to see a physician or go to the hospital. And without adequate internet access, telehealth appointments aren’t even a possibility. Such hurdles create a wide disparity that is easily solved with internet access.
When high-speed internet is available, rural residents can seek medical care from the provider of their choice right from their own homes.
CloudWyze: Connecting Rural North Carolina to High-Speed Internet
Our team is dogged in its mission of providing equitable access to high-speed internet in rural communities: a noble and worthy undertaking. Our Manager of Rural Markets Chris Utesch noted that broadband is just as vital as any other utility in today’s society.
“The internet is no longer a luxury, in modern society, it is a necessary utility, like power or water,” Utesch said. “The current internet service in many of these areas is simply not sufficient for online schooling, working from home, or enjoying many of the conveniences of modern society.”
We announced that CloudWyze was selected by the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) to receive $18,423,751 in grant funding as part of the 2022 Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant program. This funding will help us to expand broadband services to 8,628 underserved and unserved homes in Edgecombe, Harnett, Johnston, Martin, and Nash counties.
It is a great honor to be selected to supply such an important and equalizing utility to those who need it most. We are thrilled to continue working with local and state leaders to establish high-speed internet and bring the world a bit closer to North Carolinians.
Get Connected with Rural Internet from CloudWyze
Our team is made up of North Carolinians who are passionate about closing the access gap in rural communities across the state. They understand the specific needs of their neighbors and are ready to help connect them to a world of possibilities.