Will 5G fix America’s rural broadband woes?

Originally posted on Digital Trends on July 6, 2019 

Rural Americans are by far the most under-served population when it comes to broadband access. A 2018 FCC report found that 98 percent of Americans in urban areas had access to a broadband connection, yet only 69 percent of rural Americans do. And the reason why is just what you’d expect: profitability.

Fixed broadband providers see rural America as a losing proposition, a drag on the bottom line. The infrastructure investment required is substantial, so today’s modern broadband often ends outside of the far suburbs, leaving rural Americans with their smartphones as their only alternative.

That’s working, for now. Every urban-dwelling American has access to a basic LTE connection, defined by the FCC as a minimum of 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Most rural Americans do too, with at least 95 percent of all Americans in rural and tribal lands having the same. But let’s face it: for most modern applications, that is nowhere near fast enough to be useful, and a large section of rural America barely meets this low bar. This is where 5G comes in.

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