While broadband penetration is much higher in the metropolitan and micropolitan areas, it has experienced the significant gains in rural areas during the past two years. The findings come from a comScore study on broadband growth in rural, micropolitan, and metropolitan areas in the United States. 

“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,” said 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.”

Rural markets (defined as having a population less than 10,000) in the U.S. experienced a 16-percentage point increase in broadband penetration from Q2 2007 to Q2 2009, making it the fastest growing geographic market segment in the nation. 

Comparatively, micropolitan areas (population between 10,000-50,000) grew 14 percentage points during the same period, while metropolitan areas (population 50,000+) grew 11 percentage points.

Even though rural markets have experienced significant growth, their broadband penetration of 75% remains well below the national average of 89%. Lower broadband penetration in rural areas is compounded by lower Internet usage overall, the study says. 

According to a 2007 analysis by U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 63% of all rural households had at least one member access the Internet, compared with 73% of urban households.

Broadband penetration, according to comScore, was a topic highlighted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed by President Obama earlier this year. 

The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to accelerate broadband deployment in areas of the country that have been without the high-speed infrastructure, says comScore. 

Starting this month, it says, broadband deployment workshops are being held in Washington D.C.; the national broadband plan is due to Congress in February 2010.

While large broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast have a presence in rural areas, smaller and more localized providers such as Cincinnati Bell, Insight, PenTeleData, Mediacom, and Bresnan Communications are proving tough competition in the battle for market share, says comScore.

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About Rakesh Raman

Have extensive editorial, content management, and integrated communications experience and have worked as a senior tech journalist, analyst, and columnist with different newspapers, magazines, and Web/online properties in India.

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