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Building Networks Not Enough to Expand Rural Broadband

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A broadband sign in a rural setting.

Researchers at Cornell University found that public grants to build rural broadband networks may not be sufficient to close the digital divide.

Credit: iStock

Cornell University researchers found that closing the digital divide in rural areas will require more than public grants to build broadband networks.

The researchers partnered with local Internet service provider Slic Network Solutions to determine whether it was feasible to create a rural broadband cooperative in Franklin County, NY, to improve access.

Even with federal and state subsidies, they found that the co-op would have to charge users $231 per month for its high-speed option, or more than 131% more than market rates.

However, the costs were lowered by eliminating the surcharge to subsidize a lower-speed service option costing no more than $60, as required by the construction grants, or by having an existing rural electric or telecommunications co-op expand into broadband.

The researchers also found improvements in feasibility with increases in a coverage area's density and the percentage of potential subscribers signing up at different speeds.

From Cornell Chronicle
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