Rural Internet Access and Social Inclusion: A Closer Look in Wyoming

Rural Internet Access and Social Inclusion: A Closer Look in Wyoming

Rural internet access is an important issue that affects the social inclusion of rural communities. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), around 14.5 million rural Americans lack access to broadband internet. This digital divide has significant implications for social and economic development in rural areas, as access to the internet is increasingly necessary for education, healthcare, and business.

In the state of Wyoming, access to broadband internet is a particular challenge due to the state's rugged terrain and sparse population. In 2019, only 69% of Wyoming's rural population had access to broadband internet, compared to 98% of the urban population. This lack of access puts rural Wyomingites at a disadvantage when it comes to education, healthcare, and job opportunities.

One of the main challenges to expanding internet access in rural areas is the cost of infrastructure. Rural areas often have lower population densities, which can make it more expensive to lay fiber optic cables or build cell towers. Additionally, many internet service providers (ISPs) are reluctant to invest in rural areas because the return on investment may not be as high as in urban areas.

However, there are several initiatives underway in Wyoming to address the issue of rural internet access. One such initiative is the Wyoming Broadband Enhancement Plan, which was released in 2018. This plan outlines strategies for improving broadband access in the state, such as incentivizing ISPs to invest in rural areas and improving coordination between state agencies and local communities.

Another important initiative is the Wyoming Telecommunications Act, which was passed in 2020. This act provides funding for infrastructure projects that aim to expand broadband access in rural areas. It also establishes a broadband advisory council that will work to develop policies and strategies to improve internet access across the state.

Expanding internet access in rural areas not only helps to bridge the digital divide, but it also has important implications for social inclusion. With access to the internet, rural residents can more easily access educational resources, participate in telemedicine programs, and connect with job opportunities. Additionally, the internet can provide a sense of connection to the broader world, which is particularly important in rural areas where social isolation can be a challenge.

In conclusion, rural internet access is a critical issue that affects the social and economic development of rural communities. While there are challenges to expanding internet access in rural areas, initiatives such as the Wyoming Broadband Enhancement Plan and the Wyoming Telecommunications Act are working to address this issue in the state. By improving internet access in rural areas, we can help to bridge the digital divide and promote social inclusion for all.

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