Internet coverage, reliability in rural areas hinders development
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South Dakota is threatened by a growing urban-rural digital divide, endangering residents’ quality of life and economic development efforts unless significant investments are made in advanced mobile technology, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of South Dakota and Virginia’s Old Dominion University interviewed and surveyed rural South Dakota residents last fall to determine their perceptions of coverage, capacity and speed of Internet access.
While South Dakota’s economy has outpaced national economic growth over the last two decades, Bob McNab, an economist and director of Old Dominion’s Center for Economic Analysis and Policy and the study’s lead author, says many participants indicated their rural networks have insufficient coverage, capacity and speed for basic health and safety, let alone quality of life.
“The most intriguing finding was, if you look at mobile coverage maps, providers would say the entire state is covered,” McNab noted. “But what we found was the facts on the ground are dramatically different for rural consumers compared with urban consumers.”
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