Digital telecommunications infrastructure underlies most, if not all, dimensions of regional economies. Today, the internet is essential to the well-being of those who live and work in small towns and rural areas. There is a strong need for internet access within rural areas: internet can be essential to creating equitable access to education and health care; it facilitates entrepreneurship and business opportunities; and digital technologies enabled by broadband are increasingly used for the sustainable use of natural resources such as water and supporting local food production.
Although the need is strong, broadband access is usually determined by market demand. Internet users in rural areas are relatively underserved because of their low population density. Many current initiatives to improve regional and rural broadband infrastructure are focused aggregating demand for service and improving the quality of connections. A competitive, open access expansion of broadband network architecture and operations for applications running on it extends internet service into the areas of priority need. The “last mile” connections are many communities of rural homes, businesses, farms and fields. Yet these are the “first mile” areas that feed and fuel the nation; they provide many resources essential to everyone’s life and well-being within regions and their cities, as well as beyond them.