Despite supporting the retraction of net neutrality, the FCC is investing in broadband access for rural America.

Just think of your life pre-internet: Minesweeper, Jules Verne, and wall ball were great. But remember the first time you used instant messenger? The first time you watched a video essay on YouTube? Googled what to do if you ate expired yogurt?

That is the power of the internet and one of the reasons why the FCC thinks rural America needs broadband access.

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Why Isn’t Netflix Working?!

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If you are an American in a rural area, you might turn green with envy when trying to use Netflix and other streaming services. That’s because many rural Americans don’t have access to internet fast enough for Netflix.

Only 4% of Americans in urban centers struggle with access to a recommended minimum internet speed, which is 25 mgb/s. The FCC estimates that around 39% of Americans in rural sectors lack access to this minimum. This group includes public officials.

Proven Numbers Yield Huge FCC Auction in 2018

In Phase II of its initiative, the FCC is opening bids for a 2018 auction for any interested parties looking to contribute to expanding rural broadband access.

Did your census block make the cut?

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You can check out the map here. The USDA offers a Loan Guarantee Program, too. Companies who provide broadband services in inadequately served areas receive startup costs as part of the National Farm Bill.

As with many major changes, the expansion of rural broadband access is a slow process.

Though the US government sees the value in it, many citizens have looked to private sector options or private-public partnerships.

States like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado have all developed plans for broadband expansion, but they need help. Private partners can step in more quickly than government agencies to make broadband access a reality for all Americans. But why should they do it?

Not only will it benefit their businesses in the long-term, it benefits the citizens in 3 extremely important ways.

1. Broadband Increases Access to Emergency Personnel & Police

As mentioned earlier, part of the 39% of rural Americans without sufficient broadband access are government officials and police. With the added benefit of immediate internet access, first responders and other emergency personnel might respond more effectively.

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After all, having more avenues than just a phone call to report an issue helps immensely. Broadband access also means that government personnel can access useful training materials, file paperwork, and stay connected to the larger law enforcement community.

2. Broadband Increases Access to Learning Tools

As many Americans in urban centers know, you can find almost anything online. This, incredibly, now extends to higher learning and other learning tools. From Codecademy and Coursera to Stackskills and Udemy, you can find all kinds of free or affordable online classes.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the heck all of this “machine learning” stuff is, read how Andrew Ng will teach you all about it for free here.

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Juliet Childers | Edgy Labs

Beyond that, all you have to do is search for the right term in YouTube. You can find the perfect Adobe® Photoshop® software tutorial or simply figure out how to check your employee schedule at Starbucks.

Not only are you trimming down the time it takes to access knowledge, but you are also expanding the pool of knowledge from which to learn.

#3: Broadband Decreases Healthcare Gaps with Telemedicine

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In rural America, citizens might not have the option to get the kind of care they need at the time they need it. Broadband access bridges this gap with telemedicine and telecommuting counseling services.

This also enables physicians and specialists from anywhere to expand their market and gain new expertise with new patients.

If grandma refuses to leave, say, the town of Kremmling, CO to go see the doctor, with broadband internet, you can bring the doctor to her. She might not like all the fancy technology stuff in her home, but at least she has access to specialized physicians anywhere in the world from the comfort of her home.

Economic Implications for the Future

Basic broadband access could well become the next inalienable right. After all, these days most people rely on the Internet for whatever reason. First responders check traffic on Google, citizens log onto their city’s website to register for jury duty or for voting, and a homeschooled kid from an agriculture family learns how to program computers in his free time. Isn’t that truly a land of opportunity?

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Even more important than Netflix are these seemingly humdrum and banal occurrences that inhabit (or plague) our lives. We don’t pay attention to these tasks because they are easy with decent internet access.

But if you are stuck waiting for a page to load for minutes as opposed to seconds, those simple tasks become monumental obstacles.

If rural America, private businesses, and the U.S. government invest in the future of broadband access, what are the possible benefits to the U.S. economy?

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