Updated Report Shows How Cooperatives Are Bridging the Digital Divide

Date: 27 Jun 2019 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Decades after bringing electricity and telephone services to America’s rural households, cooperatives are tackling a new challenge: the rural digital divide. New updates to the Community Broadband Networks initiative’s report Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era, originally published in 2017, illustrate the remarkable progress co-ops have made in deploying fiber optic Internet access across the country. 

 

“Cooperatives should be the foundation for bringing high-quality Internet service to rural America… Small towns and farming communities need robust Internet service to support their local economies, educate themselves, and generally improve their quality of life. Cooperatives have quietly proved that they can build Fiber-to-the-Home networks that are capable of speeds of greater than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). More than 140 cooperatives offer gigabit service to residents or businesses.”

 

The report features new maps showing overall growth in areas served by co-ops, as well as expanded information about state legislation that supports co-op investment in broadband networks. A few important takeaways: 

  • More than 140 co-ops across the country now offer residential gigabit Internet access to their members, reaching more than 300 communities. 
  • Co-ops connect 70.8 percent of North Dakota and 47.7 percent of South Dakota landmass to fiber, and residents enjoy some of the fastest Internet access speeds in the nation.
  • Georgia and Mississippi have overturned state laws banning co-ops from offering Internet access, and other states, including Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas, have implemented legislation that will further ease the way. 

 

Co-ops have proven that this is a model that works. With increased support from federal and state governments, they will continue to connect rural Americans to economic and educational opportunities otherwise denied to them. 

 

Read the full report here. 

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Follow Christopher Mitchell:
Christopher Mitchell

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He runs MuniNetworks.org as part of ILSR's effort to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them.

Follow Katie Kienbaum:
Katie Kienbaum

Katie is a Researcher with ILSR's Energy Democracy initiative, where she researches and writes about equitable and decentralized clean energy and its impact on communities across the country. Before joining the Energy Democracy initiative, she was a Research Associate with the Community Broadband Networks initiative

Follow H Trostle:
H Trostle

H. Trostle is a Project Manager for ILSR's Community Broadband Networks Initiative. A graduate of Macalester College with a degree in Political Science, they work on issues of Internet access in rural communities. They are a member of the Cherokee Nation, but grew up among the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota.