Across rural America are people who have the skills and motivation to contribute to the larger economy—but the small towns in which they live often lack the big businesses and organizations that can offer the jobs they want. One way we can bridge this gap is by providing robust, reliable, and affordable broadband connections to rural America.
Broadband connections help rural communities thrive and increase access to economic and educational opportunities. And thanks to the emergence of telework capabilities, rural Americans can leverage their broadband to access meaningful and fulfilling careers that may otherwise be out of reach.
Indeed, teleworking capabilities, such as those supported by FlexJobs and other third-party platforms, connect rural Americans to the rest of the world, while allowing small towns to flourish and maintain their character. In the words of Elizabeth Brown, a public relations professional with Panhandle Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (Guymon, OK), “Rural broadband provides a bridge from our community to the broader world; it enables people to remain living and working in the place they love, but delivers access to the communication and connections needed to succeed in a rural setting.”
The opportunity to pursue meaningful economic opportunities and fulfilling career paths from the comfort of their own homes allows rural Americans to contribute the national economy in a profound way. That’s why promoting the accessibility of telework and work flexibility, as well as the broadband deployment that supports these capabilities, is critically important.
Beyond that, the success of rural and urban economies is intertwined, and rural Internet providers support Internet-driven commerce that contributes to the strength of the national economy. According to a Foundation for Rural Service white paper, “A Cyber Economy: The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America,” by iGR, rural America is responsible for 15.5% of all consumer, Internet-driven transactions.
Furthermore, rural online transactions account for 7% of the U.S. nominal gross domestic product (GDP).
Some states, such as Wisconsin, are even recognizing and incentivizing telework programs through legislation. A law recently passed the Wisconsin state legislature that established a process for certification by the Public Service Commission of a political subdivision as a “Telecommuter Forward!” community.
Badger Communications (Durand, WI), celebrated the legislation as a way to help reverse a trend of population decline in small towns. Telecommuting is good for the company’s community because workers who can work remotely can also purchase real estate and add to the tax base, send their children to local schools, and purchase goods and services in the area, adding to overall economic development. They can also avail themselves of the beauty and recreational opportunities of the region and enjoy the flexibility of working at home, which promotes a healthier family life.
Written by Ashley Spinks, Communications Coordinator, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
NTCA is an association of nearly 850 small, rural, often family-owned telecommunications providers from across the United States. More than 150 of these companies are certified Gig-Capable Providers, meaning that they have infrastructure capable of providing gigabit (1 Gbps) Internet speeds. NTCA member companies cover more than 37% of the nation’s landmass with broadband infrastructure—and this broadband service helps to keep the small towns of America’s heartland economically viable.
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