Rural residents are more likely to say they don't want an Internet connection. But they are also far less likely to have access to broadband.
Rural residents using dial-up services to connect to the Internet are seven times more likely to be without access to broadband than dial-up users in the cities.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project routinely asks those without Internet broadband connections why they don’t have the speedier service. Most say that they aren’t interested in getting on line. Rural adults are more likely to say they are “not interested in getting online” than are adults living in urban areas.
Nationwide, nine percent of all adults, however, use dial-up services, and when Pew’s John Horrigan examined why these Internet users avoided broadband, he found large differences in the responses of urban, suburban and rural residents.
Of those using dial-up in cities, 36% said they wouldn’t switch to broadband because of price, but only 3% said they didn’t have fast Internet connection because it wasn’t available.
Among suburban dial-up users, 37% said cost kept them from adopting broadband; 11% said the service wasn’t available.
In rural communities, however, 30% of dial-up users said they wouldn’t use broadband because of price, and 24% said broadband wasn’t available where they lived.
Dial-up users in rural areas were more than seven times more likely to say broadband was unavailable than dial-up users in the cities. “Providing incentives to build broadband infrastructure directly addresses the availability problem and could be of particular help to Americans living in rural areas,” Horrigan wrote.
The final stimulus bill contains about $6.8 billion to extend broadband Internet into unserved areas in the U.S. Most of those communities without broadband are in rural America.
A debate has started about whether it’s worthwhile to extend broadband to those who don’t have it already. The most persistent warning about broadband spending is that it is the cyber-equivalent of building a “bridge to nowhere” — that the government will spend billions to extend technology to people who don’t want it or won’t know what to do with it.
What the Pew survey shows is a real technological divide between rural and urban users. Not everyone wants or would use a broadband connection, even if it were delivered for free. For a much larger percentage of rural users, however, broadband isn’t a choice that is available, according to the Pew surveys.
The CEO of the country’s second largest rural telecommunications provider told state utility commissioners this weekend that broadband service was the “key to shoring up a rapidly evolving rural economy,” according to Andrew Feinberg with Broadbandcensus.com. Maggie Eilderotter with Frontier Communications said that rural businesses “deserve better” than what many telecommunications companies now offer.
“If you choose to live in rural America…you should have the same [access to high speed Internet service] as anyone else,” Wilderotter said.