USDA today issued a short Bulletin looking at rural internet usage:
Three-quarters of U.S. residents used the Internet to access information, education, and services in 2007. Broadband Internet access is becoming essential for both businesses and households; many compare its evolution to other technologies now considered common necessities—such as cars, electricity, televisions, microwave ovens, and cell phones. Although rural residents enjoy widespread access to the Internet, they are less likely to have high-speed, or broadband, Internet access than their urban counterparts. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the difference in access may lie in the higher cost and limited availability of broadband Internet in rural areas. As a result, rural residents depend more on Internet use outside of the home, in places like the library, school, and work, where broadband Internet access is available.
This is a well-written little document that might be a good handout for local elected officials and economic development boards. It presents detailed national information in a few easy charts without getting overly technical. USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has more resources on rural telecommunications also.
The bulletin is based on FCC data, USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey and and June Agricultural Survey, Pew Internet & American Life Project, and additional state-level data.
This report draws on the research of ERS’s Resource and Rural Economics Division. Data in this analysis are drawn from the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Form 477 survey and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS).
It does not directly reference the recently released US Census of Agriculture 2007 data for on-farm broadband use. However, as I understand it, Census of Ag was used for the Ag Resource Management Survey so the numbers are in there.