Broadband Access Is Necessary to Attract Young Homeowners

Prairie Gleanings

Broadband access can add as many, if not more, jobs to a rural area as a new factory.

Published on: February 29, 2012
Potential home buyers are increasingly asking a very pointed question when looking to buy in a rural area.

“They want to know how fast the internet speed is,” says Mike Rudibaugh, with Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

There are a number of ways to label different internet speeds. For the younger generation, anything under 3 mbps is too slow. At 3 mbps, you could download a 3 minute song from iTunes in about 8 seconds. Large downloads or streaming movies can be a hassle.

In speaking with Rudibaugh after his presentation at the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference, I realized the leaders of many small rural towns may not understand how detrimental broadband access will be to the town’s future. For younger generations, broadband is just as important as water, power and trash disposal.

Growing up outside of Rolla, Mo., I still remember the day dad finally connected us to the internet. After hearing reports of internet obsession, he feared family time would be sacrificed in the name of web browsing. When we realized how painfully slow dial up was, his fear was quickly assuaged. At night, I remember queuing three songs for download on Napster (before it was illegal) with the hope of completing at least one. It took me several weeks before I had enough songs to burn a full-length CD.

Fast forward about 15 years. Last week, I watched with pride as dad browsed Netflix’ selection of streaming videos with his wireless Roku box. FYI: if you have at least one toddler in the household, Netflix is well worth the $8/month. They have over 200 episodes of Phineas and Ferb!

Point is the digital revolution is happening. Even if you don’t see value in your rural community, someone does. It’s a point those of us in rural leadership positions need to remember. To keep and attract younger generations to small towns, high-speed internet is a must.

Netflix and Hulu are great. However, more jobs are increasingly reliant on a broadband connection. It would be nearly impossible for me to do my job from many of Illinois’ rural communities. Uploading photos and videos requires a lot of speed.

Rudibaugh notes many rural community leaders are focused on attracting a new factory to create jobs. What they fail to realize is broadband service could create even more job opportunities through the advances of telecommuting. As gas pushes toward $5/gallon, the premise gains even more traction.