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Rural broadband use grows, but still lags behind cities

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Growing numbers of rural residents, including farmers, are using broadband for business.
Growing numbers of rural residents, including farmers, are using broadband for business.

A growing proportion of internet users in the rural U.S. are boosting their businesses through broadband connections, says a new government report.

Although rural residents enjoy widespread access to the internet, they are less likely to have broadband internet access than city-dwellers. Some evidence suggests that due to higher cost and limited availability of broadband internet in rural areas, many people turn to resources outside of the home for access like libraries, schools and work, the Economic Research Service reported.

Rural businesses looking to increase efficiencies, market presence and reduce the cost of reaching larger markets are finding broadband access leads to greater market opportunities. Rural businesses use broadband less than urban businesses, perhaps due to higher prices for rural broadband service.

Farmers have adopted the internet for business purposes at a rapid pace. In 2005, 30 percent of farmers were using the internet for farm business; that proportion had increased to 63 percent by 2007. By 2003, online wholesale trade of farm products had already reached $3.7 billion or approximately 3 percent of all wholesale farm product sales.

The report finds that as internet adoption increases, the need for high-speed internet also rises as businesses become more competitive through online purchasing and marketing.

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