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Broadband Availability Beyond the Rural/Urban Divide

Report ID: 
Broadband Brief No. 2
June 05, 2013
David Beede, Anne Neville

While it is commonly understood that broadband is less available in rural communities and more available in urban communities, a simple two-way, rural-urban comparison masks the fact that there is considerable variation in availability within these two types of communities. By assigning communities to one of five categories, it becomes clear that there is not a simple rural/urban divide. Rather, one group of rural Americans has even less broadband access than previously understood and two groups of urban Americans have more broadband than is typically identified.

Additionally, this more granular analysis of broadband availability in rural and urban communities demonstrates that greater broadband availability within rural communities or within urban communities is closely associated with population density. However, comparing broadband availability across the combination of all rural and urban communities establishes that a community’s proximity to a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is often more closely associated with higher broadband speeds than is population density alone.