broadband internet

Donald Trump won two-thirds of the vote in rural areas in the last two presidential elections — highlighting what some see as a growing divide between rural and urban America.

Now, a Washington, D.C., based think tank suggests the Biden administration look to expand broadband internet access in rural areas to help bridge the economic divide.

David Condos / Kansas News Service

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Joey Bahr walks out to the front of his yard along a blacktop county road. He stops in a ditch and points to an orange-and-black sign that marks a buried fiber-optic cable.

But for Bahr, the cable running beneath his feet is off-limits. It’s owned by a neighboring internet service provider and is merely passing through on its way to a nearby town.

“It’s just maddening,” Bahr said. “We’re at the end of the line basically.”

DODGE CITY — Kansas is bathed in shades of blue that stretch north to south, east to west. That’s not a reference to politics: It’s what the state looks like on the Federal Communications Commission’s Fixed Broadband Deployment map. 

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

In the 1990s, the near future looked like a place where distance would no longer matter.

In an increasingly online economy, location would matter less than connection. The internet appeared destined to make working from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, much the same as tackling a job from Pittsburg, Kansas.

Yet three decades later, location matters as much as ever.

A new poll suggests 72 percent of voters, regardless of party affiliation, believe Congress and federal regulators “need to do more” to bring high-speed internet to rural Americans.

Kansas Department of Commerce

Kansas officials will soon have an up-to-date map of broadband service availability across the state as a way to help close the coverage gap.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media/File photo

Shoring up rural America’s economy must start with broadband access and technology, a federal task force says in a report released Monday.

The group, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and made up of other Cabinet members, says doing so will bring rural areas increased health care access, better job training, smart electrical grids and more precision farming technology. Little of that can be accomplished, the report says, without closing the broadband gap between urban and rural residents.