Cooperatives should be the foundation for bringing high-speed Internet service to rural America. Internet service from satellite, dial-up, and DSL is too slow and unreliable for modern applications. Small towns and farming communities need high-speed Internet service to support their local economies, educate themselves, and generally improve their quality of life. Cooperatives have quietly proved that they can build Fiber-to-the-Home networks that are capable of speeds of more than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). As of December 2016 according to FCC data, 87 cooperatives offer residential gigabit service.
Small Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also making investments in their rural communities, but large ISPs, such as AT&T and CenturyLink, have overlooked rural areas. This is where cooperatives can solve the problem.
This brief explores the impact that rural cooperatives have already made on Internet access. It concludes with action steps and policy recommendations for universal access to high-quality Internet service in America.
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