This report analyzes rural broadband
and use by consumers, the community-at-large, and businesses; rural
broadband availability; and broadband's social and economic effects
on rural areas. It also summarizes results from an ERS-sponsored
workshop on rural broadband use, and other ERS-commissioned studies.
Overall, rural communities that had greater broadband Internet access
had greater economic growth, which conforms to supplemental research
on the benefits that rural businesses, consumers, and communities
ascribe to broadband Internet use. One of the rural business sectors
mentioned is the farm business.
Agriculture is another rural business
sector that benefits from the Internet. For farm operators with
Internet access in 2000, 98 percent used it to gather information.
Price tracking (82 percent) was the next most common application.
In general, rural America has shared in
the growth of the Internet economy. Online course offerings for
students in primary, secondary, post-secondary, and continuing
education programs have improved educational opportunities,
especially in small, isolated rural areas. And interaction among
students, parents, teachers, and school administrators has been
enhanced via online forums, which is especially significant given the
importance of ongoing parental involvement in children’s education.
Telemedicine and telehealth have been
hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities,
whether simply improving the perception of locally provided health
care quality or expanding the menu of medical services. More
accessible health information, products, and services confer real
economic benefits on rural communities: reducing transportation time
and expenses, treating emergencies more effectively, reducing time
missed at work, increasing local lab and pharmacy work, and
generating savings for health facilities from outsourcing specialized