Report: Broadband Became “Rural America’s Critical Connection” During Pandemic

Research from the Foundation for Rural Service underscores the transformative role broadband played in rural America during the Pandemic and looks into increasing demand for what has become a fundamental service.

by Stephen V. Smith,

The optimism that naturally accompanies the start of a new decade was met with a series of challenges as 2020 unfolded. The coronavirus pandemic was chief among these, creating a public health crisis, economic hardship, and social unrest.

Broadband was the technology that ran like a thread through efforts to combat these challenges.

A new white paper published by the Foundation for Rural Service, “Broadband Today: Rural America’s Critical Connection,” examined the role of broadband in responding to the pandemic.

“Never before has reliable access to high-speed internet been as important as it has been during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said FRS Executive Director Pam Becker.“Broadband connects us to our work, education, health care, government programs, and — most importantly — one another. This report examines the necessary benefits broadband access has provided to rural Americans throughout the pandemic and what more can be done to ensure sustainable, affordable networks for all going forward.”

The report found a 40% uptick in broadband usage between the end of 2019 and 2020. According to the research, rural networks were able to function well due to investments thanks to recent investments by local providers and an increase in the “fiber-to-the-home penetration.”

The report estimated that around 30% of the modern workforce could be working from home multiple days a week by as soon as the end of 2021, creating a permanent demand for higher speeds and upload capacity.

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