Broadband Grows Faster in Rural Areas

  • Broadband Penetration

RESTON, VA – City dwellers still have more and better broadband options than their country cousins. But the country cousins have been catching up, even before the federal stimulus funds have begun to flow. A new study from digital research firm comScore shows that while broadband penetration is far higher in metropolitan and micropolitan areas, rural areas have experienced the most significant broadband gains during the past two years.


“Across the country we have witnessed growth in broadband adoption driven by greater price competition and increased consumer demand, as bandwidth-intense activities like video streaming and peer-to-peer sharing continue to grow,” says Brian Jurutka, vice president of telecommunications at comScore. “With low-speed DSL priced at about the same level as dial-up in many areas, there is little incentive for households to remain on dial-up.”


U.S. markets with populations below 10,000 experienced a 16-percentage-point increase in broadband penetration from Q2 2007 to Q2 2009, making this the fastest-growing market segment. Micropolitan areas (population between 10,000 and 50,000) grew 14 percentage points during the same period, while metropolitan areas (population 50,000+) grew 11 percentage points.


With a broadband penetration of 75 percent, rural markets are still well below the national average of 89 percent. Lower broadband penetration in rural areas is compounded by lower Internet usage. According to a 2007 analysis by U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 63 percent of all rural households had at least one member access the Internet, compared with 73 percent of urban households.


Smaller Markets Lead the Nation in Broadband Growth


ComScore found that the top-growing markets were all smaller, ranking at or below #50 in terms of size. Ft. Myers - Naples was the fastest growing market with a 12-percentage point increase in broadband penetration from Q1 2008 to Q1 2009. Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich., Louisville, Ky., and Evansville, Ind., all experienced 11-percentage point increases during the same period. Larger markets are closer to reaching saturation and experienced low single-digit growth. New York, the largest local market, reached 96 percent broadband penetration in Q1 2009, making it the most wired local market among the largest five.

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