December 8, 2017 By: Kevin Ryan
Today, wireless connects you to friends and family, to healthcare and transportation services, to job opportunities and educational resources. Wireless connectivity brings the world to your doorstep.
And for rural communities, that is particularly important.
That’s why the wireless industry is proud that we’ve made great strides to bring wireless coverage to rural America—overcoming economic and network challenges—like sparse populations over expansive areas that contain often difficult topography.
Today, nearly 99 percent of the 56 million rural Americans have access to at least one 4G provider. And wireless networks now cover 96 percent of the over 4.5 million rural road miles across the country, up from 85.4 percent five years ago.
And rural Americans benefit from intense wireless competition, too. Over 84 percent of rural Americans can choose between three or more 4G providers—a nearly 30 percent increase over the last 18 months alone.
We’re talking about large wireless providers like T-Mobile, which is on track expand its 4G coverage by six million—mostly rural—Americans this year.
And we’re talking about regional providers like East Kentucky Network and Bluegrass Cellular, who are investing in rural areas across the country.
To learn more about how wireless serves rural communities, we’ve assembled a resource that pulls together what the wireless industry is doing to serve rural America. There you’ll see examples of the progress we’ve made.
Examples like the investment U.S. Cellular made with assistance from federal funding to bring wireless service to the 500+ residents of Paw Paw, West Virginia. Thanks to this effort—and the help from the Universal Service Fund—this town is connected to the power of 4G for the first time, which one public official called a “game-changer.”
As wireless unlocks new services in other industries, we can help bring these benefits to more of rural America. For instance, wireless connectivity helps enable remote access and telemedicine, reducing unnecessary costs and ensuring that time and distance are not barriers to early interventions and preventative care for rural Americans.
And farmers increasingly have turned to wireless technology to prevent the over- and under-watering of crops and to preserve resources during droughts, demonstrating the benefits of the Internet of Things and next-generation technologies in rural areas.
But simple economics remains a challenge. The good news is policymakers can help, by incentivizing industry investment and providing targeted support to commercial providers to bring wireless to areas that don’t present a reasonable business case.
More spectrum, particularly those low-band airwaves that can travel miles, will enhance coverage. Modernized siting rules can bring down the cost of wireless deployment. And quickly scheduling the next phase of the FCC’s Mobility Fund will provide over $450 million annually to extend 4G in rural areas.
The wireless industry has made huge strides to bring wireless coverage to rural America. Because we believe that every American community should have access to the connectivity and power of wireless networks. Learn more at ruralwireless.ctia.org.
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