Nearly three in four voters believe expanding rural broadband access would have a positive impact on the nation’s economy, but 72 percent believe that Congress and federal regulators “need to do more” to connect rural America, according to a new nationwide survey released today by Connect Americans Now (CAN).

“The lack of high-speed internet service in Mississippi has become a crisis that is holding back progress in economic development, education, healthcare and the pure quality of life of our people. Too much of Mississippi is in the digital dark and disconnected from the modern economy. Luckily, bipartisan support for fixing this issue seems to be mounting by allowing electric cooperatives to serve their members. By allowing another entity to enter the free market and bring another choice to Mississippi consumers, we will move a giant step ahead to fixing this issue. Make no mistake about it, high-speed internet service is the electricity of the 21st century,” said Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District Brandon Presley.

The survey also revealed that 85 percent of voters believe improving rural broadband connectivity would have a positive impact for those on the wrong side of the digital divide.

The online survey of 800 registered voters was conducted in late August with Public Opinion Strategies, an Alexandria-based survey research firm.

“Every day at Connect Americans Now, we are amazed by how many people come to us with stories about how the digital divide is impacting their lives and livelihoods,” said Connect Americans Now Executive Director Richard T. Cullen. “This poll provides deeper proof of the depth of the problem and the hunger for action on this critical issue across the country. The time for action is past due.”

Americans broadly agree that TV white spaces (TVWS) spectrum should be available for local providers to deploy broadband to rural areas:

  • When explained what TVWS are and asked whether the vacant spectrum should be sold to the highest bidder or available for local providers to deploy rural broadband, 64 percent of voters believed they should be available for broadband, and only 11 percent said it should not be.
    • Of this dataset, 58 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats agreed that TVWS should be used for broadband deployment. 
  • When asked whether there should be a clear set of rules surrounding TVWS, or whether the regulations should be left the way they are, 55 percent of voters said there should be a clear set of rules, while 25 percent said they should be left the way they are.

Voters understand the importance of expanding rural broadband connectivity and are frustrated with Washington’s response to the digital divide:

  • When asked whether they agree or disagree that Congress and Federal regulators need to do more to connect rural America, 72 percent of voters agreed. 
  • 69 percent of voters agree that improving broadband access for rural Americans is important to growing the economy.
    • This question crossed party lines with 62 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 76 percent of Democrats agreeing. 
  • By more than a two-to-one margin, Americans believe that federal regulators are making it too difficult for local and regional providers to build networks in remote and rural areas. 
  • 69 percent of voters agree that Americans without broadband are at a “disadvantage.”
  • When asked whether policymakers in Washington cared about expanding rural broadband connectivity, 66 percent of voters responded no.

Internet access is as important as ever:

  • 92 percent of respondents said internet access was important to their daily lives, with 53 percent classifying it as “extremely important.”
  • 88 percent of voters said that it was important to have high-speed broadband, as opposed to a connection that was too slow to perform basic tasks like video streaming. 
  • 58 percent of respondents ages 18-24 report watching television through streaming services, as opposed to 48 percent of respondents ages 35-44, 42 percent of voters 45-54, 29 percent of voters 55-64 and 21 percent 61 and older.

About Connect Americans Now

Connect Americans Now is a group of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates and leading innovators committed to eliminating the digital divide that is holding back rural America. Our goal is to bring rural Americans who currently lack connectivity safe and affordable broadband access by 2022 so they can take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that exist in other communities.