High-speed internet connectivity has become as essential to economic prosperity today as roads, shipping, telecommunications and electricity. Broadband access generates economic growth and job creation, accelerates business development, and attracts businesses looking to relocate or expand to areas with a strong broadband presence. Not having the ability to upload, download, communicate, stream content, and process data at the speeds and capacity broadband provides, or integrate broadband-dependent tools, apps and devices into your business operations and processes, makes it nearly impossible to compete in a global digital economy.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for roughly one-third of rural America. Millions of Americans are effectively cut off from participating in the digital economy. While satellite providers have served rural areas for many years, the speeds and reliability satellite is capable of providing are no longer sufficient to match today’s business demands.
A global market
Broadband connects products and services to markets. The beauty of high-speed internet is that any business, no matter how small, can leverage it to sell their items or services to a global marketplace. Simply not being able to sell on Amazon.com is a major disadvantage in itself as over 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) sell their products and services through Amazon. And over 100 million consumers in the United States alone are Amazon Prime members.
However, it’s not just about being able to sell things to a vast number of consumers. High-speed internet facilitates a business’s own web presence, communications and internal operations.
Having a website that functions efficiently and smoothly is as important to today’s business as having knowledgeable customer service reps being able to speak on the phone. Even a one-second delay in page load times can decrease customer satisfaction by 16%, and 40% of users will abandon a web page altogether if it takes more than three seconds to load. A lack of high-speed connectivity also significantly limits a business’s ability to produce and distribute online promotional materials, such as blogs, graphics, videos, podcasts, interactive content and various other types of marketing collateral to establish their brand and increase awareness among consumers.
Customer expectations have shifted dramatically over the last few years, and first response time (FRT) has become one of the most important metrics of a successful business today. According to CMO council, a fast FRT is the most important attribute of good customer service. When service is slow or down altogether, emails go unanswered and customers get frustrated. When they have a plethora of other competing options to choose from, all over the world, right at their fingertips, they will likely take their business elsewhere.
Internally, broadband enables businesses to operate far more efficiently. Workers can be equipped with mobile devices and apps that facilitate better communication and provide deeper, more comprehensive information for problem-solving and service optimization. Numerous digital solutions can also be leveraged to improve and expedite tasks such as paperwork, payroll, taxes, human resources, benefits, and time tracking.
Working out of the home
High-speed connectivity also provides people with opportunities to generate income remotely, from employees who work from home some or all of the time, to small supplementary activities like selling things on eBay, to running full-time home businesses.
In fact, according to Strategic Network Groups, more than 50% of households say that broadband has enabled them to increase their household income in one way or another. Unfortunately, the inability to work from home due to lack of broadband limits economic prospects for many rural Americans, as they are cut off from the growing number of full-time work-from-home job opportunities. They also lack opportunities to start small home-based businesses with the potential to grow and become tomorrow’s established enterprises.
Further, broadband empowers people to enhance their professional skills and development wherever they live, and to find better opportunities and build a better future. These things can today be considered conditional to pursuing the American dream, yet they remain inaccessible to many in rural areas.
Companies can reduce costs by relocating to rural areas, which in turn increases local tax revenues, investment, diversity, and employment opportunities. This also reduces the number of people who leave rural areas for better opportunities, mitigating “brain drain” and keeping human resources in communities that need them most.
While many companies may be very enticed by these benefits, without high-speed connectivity, they simply wouldn’t be able to operate at the level they need to remain competitive. If an area lacks broadband connectivity, it is thereby a less viable and attractive place to do business. For example, there has been a lot of talk in recent years of bringing manufacturing back to rural America to provide good jobs and increase quality of life for rural citizens. But manufacturing has very rapidly evolved to what is known as Industry 4.0, and characterized by widespread digitization and reliance on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Without robust and dependable broadband connectivity, modern manufacturers are simply not able to operate. And neither would most businesses in most industries.
What’s to be done?
Unfortunately, many people today still think of broadband as a luxury rather than a necessity. However, we at Netrality are optimistic that this is changing.
Netrality is dedicated to supporting the expansion of rural broadband accessibility. We are very proud that Chariton Valley, northeast Missouri’s premier communications company, selected two of Netrality’s facilities to expand their high-speed internet service to rural Missouri. They are also aggressively spearheading a first-of-its-kind project to reinvent broadband mapping in Missouri, ensuring that utility companies and public entities are operating with accurate, up-to-date data on broadband deficiency across the country. Other Netrality ecosystem partners, including Net Vision, Liberty Connect, and Sho-Me Technologies, have initiated rural broadband expansion endeavors as well. We are also heartened by recent news of the FCC’s proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would allocate an additional $20.4 billion to expand broadband infrastructure to rural areas where it is not yet widely available.
It is a source of immense pride for all of us at Netrality to participate in and support the ongoing effort to close the broadband connectivity gap and bring the transformative power of broadband to all Americans. For more information about connecting your community, contact us.