Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have been earmarked for the expansion of broadband penetration.
Long shortchanged in broadband access, rural areas of the U.S. are now at the vanguard in the installation of high speed Internet access, according to a comScore Inc. study released Wednesday. The market research firm said broadband growth in rural areas is now outpacing growth in urban and suburban areas.
The deployment of broadband technology and expanding broadband penetration in rural areas has been a major goal of the Federal Communications Commission in recent months. The cost of providing broadband in rural areas is generally higher than in urban and suburban areas, because of the high costs of providing equipment in sparsely populated regions.
ComScore said broadband penetration rates in rural areas have been growing at a 16% rate over the past two years versus an 11% rate in metropolitan areas. For purposes of the study, a rural market has a population of less than 10,000 while a metropolitan area has a population of 50,000-plus, according to comScore. In between are micropolitan areas with populations between 10,000 and 50,000, which grew 14 percentage points in the last two years.
"Across the country we have witnessed growth in broadband adoption driven by greater price competition and increased consumer demand, as bandwidth-intense activities like video streaming and peer-to-peer sharing continue to grow," said Brian Jurutka, comScore vice president of telecommunications, in a statement "With low-speed DSL priced at about the same level as dial-up in many areas, there is little incentive for households to remain on dial-up."
However, even with the new broadband adoption growth, broadband penetration in rural areas has remained below the national average of 89%. The rate in rural areas is 75%, said comScore.
The federal government has focused special efforts on accelerating broadband deployment throughout the U.S. and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has earmarked $7.2 billion for the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service.
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