Having high-speed internet access has become essential for keeping up in today’s society. The majority of homes in urban and suburban areas have access to high speed internet from at least one service provider, with many residents able to shop between competitors, giving them a leg up on pricing for high speed internet in their areas. Some rural areas, however, do not have any options when it comes to high speed internet access, and are lagging behind in many ways as a result. One such area of the country is rural New Mexico.
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The high prices paid by many rural residents for slow Internet stem from a combination of factors, including a lack of competition and government incentives and the high cost of installing fiber-optic cable in far-reaching, thinly populated areas.
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission last week proposed a dramatic expansion of a federal subsidy program designed to ensure that low-income Americans have reliable, high-speed Internet. The changes, if passed by the commission, could help close the so-called “digital divide” between the economically comfortable and the poor.
But the proposal doesn’t address the gaping divide between urban and rural residents. And despite hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money spent over the last few years to spread fixed broadband to rural areas, an estimated 14 million people in rural areas continue to lack access, according to the FCC.
For some Northern New Mexico residents, that means relying on costly cellular data plans that severely hinder their Internet usage.
Problems like these have occurred before. Before electrical grids crisscrossed the country, many rural areas were, literally, left in the dark. The same occurred with telephone lines. Now that high speed internet is becoming just as essential, local, state and federal government entities and the service providers themselves need to come up with some sort of plan. We can’t leave our rural population behind.