About 39% of the U.S. rural population (23 million people) lack access to broadband internet service. The WSJ highlights how the lack of access to broadband services prevents residents of far-flung communities from joining the modern economy.
Rural America can’t seem to afford broadband: Too few customers are spread over too great a distance. The gold standard is fiber-optic service, but rural internet providers say they can’t invest in door-to-door connections with such a limited number of subscribers. St. Louis has more than 5,000 people per square mile compared with 33 in Washington County, according to U.S. Census figures. Fiber-optic trunk lines already make up much of the U.S. internet backbone. The trouble is reaching individual rural customers. It costs roughly $30,000 a mile to install optical fiber cable, according to industry estimates, to trench and secure right-of-way access.