What Is the Impact of Improved Broadband Infrastructure on Rural Real Estate Values?

March 22, 2024

In our modern world, broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Despite this, access to high-speed internet remains a challenge in rural areas. This disparity, commonly referred to as the digital divide, has significant implications, not least of which is its effect on property values.

The State of Broadband Access in Rural Areas

Before we dive into the implications of broadband on real estate values, it’s crucial to understand the current state of internet access in rural areas.

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According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as of 2020, 14.5 million people living in rural and Tribal lands lacked access to fixed broadband. That’s nearly 22 percent of the country’s rural population. The situation is even more dire on Tribal lands, where 27.7 percent lack broadband access.

This disparity is due to a lack of infrastructure. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often find it unprofitable to lay down miles of cable for a handful of customers in sparsely populated areas. Thus, rural communities tend to depend on slower, less reliable forms of internet, such as satellite or dial-up.

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The Impact of Broadband on Property Values

With the digital divide firmly established, the question then becomes, what is the impact of this divide on rural real estate? Numerous studies have indicated a significant correlation between broadband access and property values.

According to a 2015 study by the University of Colorado and Carnegie Mellon University, homes with access to high-speed fiber optic internet were worth an average of 3.1 percent more than similar properties without this amenity. This value increased even more in rural areas, with properties seeing an increase in value of up to 7 percent.

These findings underscore the fact that in our increasingly digital world, access to reliable, high-speed internet is not just a convenience, but a necessity. Homebuyers recognize this, and are willing to pay a premium for properties with broadband access.

The Role of Government in Broadband Expansion

Bridging the digital divide will not be an easy task. However, the government has recognized the importance of this issue and has taken steps to address it.

The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is one such initiative. This program has allocated $20.4 billion in funding over the next decade to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas. ISPs will bid for these funds, using them to build out broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.

In addition to the FCC’s program, the Department of Agriculture also has a Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, which provides funding for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

The Future of Rural Broadband and Real Estate

With these government initiatives in place, the future of rural broadband access looks promising. As broadband infrastructure expands to more rural areas, we can expect to see a corresponding increase in property values.

However, this is not just good news for homeowners. The expansion of broadband to rural areas also has significant economic benefits. It enables the creation of home-based businesses, encourages telecommuting, and makes it easier for residents to access online education and healthcare services.

In conclusion, while the digital divide remains a significant issue, efforts are being made to address it. The expansion of broadband to rural areas is not just a matter of convenience; it’s an investment in our future, and one that will pay dividends in the form of higher property values and economic growth.

Overall, while the path to universal broadband access will be a long and challenging one, the potential benefits make it a journey worth undertaking. The impact of improved broadband infrastructure on rural real estate values is a clear indicator of the transformative power of the internet, making it an indispensable tool in our contemporary world.

Infrastructure Projects to Enhance Rural Broadband Access

Efforts to bridge the digital divide are typically anchored by infrastructure projects. Government and private sector players alike have recognized the need to increase broadband deployment in rural areas. This commitment has led to the launch of numerous projects aimed at improving rural broadband.

One such project is the deployment of Starlink satellites by SpaceX. This initiative seeks to provide high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been non-existent or too expensive. By creating a network of satellites in low earth orbit, rural communities can now access broadband internet via satellite transmission, making it a viable alternative to laying vast amounts of cable in sparsely populated areas.

On the legislative front, the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed in 2021 allocated $65 billion towards broadband development. This funding is expected to aid infrastructure projects that will increase access to high-speed internet in rural areas. The bill also contains provisions that tackle affordability, aiming to make broadband services more accessible to low-income households.

These projects underline the significant efforts being made to ensure rural areas can access high-speed internet. By investing in infrastructure projects, the government and private sector are paving the way for broadband internet to become a standard amenity in rural real estate, potentially driving up property values in these areas.

Conclusion: Bridging the Digital Divide

While the journey to full internet access for all rural communities remains long and arduous, the shifts in policy and investments in infrastructure projects show a resolute commitment to bridging the digital divide. As the availability of high-speed broadband in rural areas continues to improve, we can expect a corresponding upswing in rural real estate values.

This impact goes beyond the real estate market. Access to high-speed internet in rural areas means digital inclusion, fostering economic growth, and improving the quality of life for residents. It promotes an increasingly connected world, where distance and geography are less of a barrier to opportunities and advancement.

In conclusion, the narrative of rural broadband and its influence on real estate values is about more than just physical infrastructure. It’s about investment in our collective digital future. The path to universal broadband access may be challenging, but it is a journey that holds the promise of elevating rural communities to new heights of connectivity, prosperity, and growth.