THE BLOG

Broadband Is Coming To Rural America And My Work Force Is About To Skyrocket

10/28/2010 02:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You're entitled to "Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Broadband Internet Access!"

Or, given that the mid-term elections are upon us: "A chicken in every pot and high-speed broadband internet access for every computer!"

Why the silly clichés?

For the past several weeks I've been gathering background data in preparation for a speech on
November 3 at the National Broadband Expo in Dallas, TX. My topic is "Labor Components Of Rural Broadband: The Impact Of OnShoring." And what I've learned from my rural broadband research makes me scream with excitement at the entrepreneurial opportunities.

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These statistics, in particular, jumped out to me:

  • The United States now ranks 22nd among the world's nations in the density of broadband internet penetration and 72nd in the density of mobile telephony subscriptions.
  • There are an estimated 50 million Americans living in rural areas (defined as having a population less than 10,000).
  • Rural population areas have a broadband penetration of 75 percent; well below the national average of 89 percent.
  • The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act appropriated 7.2 billion to "expand broadband access and adoption in communities across the U.S., which will increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits." (Grants and loan funds available.)

Based on these statistics, approximately 10 million people will eventually have access to broadband for the first time. They will be a mix of farmers, workers, freelancers, and business owners. They will need jobs, education, e-commerce sites, web tools, new business support services, etc. If these rural areas were themselves a single state, this market would be the eighth largest state in the U.S., behind Ohio.

These new broadband users will bring thousands of new jobs back to rural America. Because their cost of living can be up to half of urban areas, rural Americans are willing to work or provide services at rates that are far less than their urban brethren and competitive with overseas firms. Rural onshoring will continue to take outsourcing market share away from both urban firms and offshore companies. This is the market niche that my company is successfully attacking.

Depending on which research study you read, anywhere from 250,000 to 2,400,000 jobs will be created. Tele-workers and micro-business development centers of five to 50 people will flourish. Expanded infrastructure support, new virtual management techniques, and new process methodologies will be required.

Remote infrastructure innovation is best when created from the bottom up. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are being created -- from small e-commerce companies started in private homes to large companies, like those teaching English to customers overseas. Many of these companies will fail, but the ones that prosper will create more jobs, strengthen the community by paying more taxes, and generate wealth. They will need professional services provided either by local firms or via the Internet.

Many of the rural professionals I've hired moved to the "boonies" in order to have a rural lifestyle or be close to family members. Over 90 percent work from their homes. These talented people bring with them Internet know-how and advanced professional skills. It's a pity, because we have turned down numerous other well-qualified candidates simply because they don't have access to broadband.

As a history buff, I have a theory that I want to share: Beginning in the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution swept across the U.S., people left the rural areas and moved to the urban mills and factories in pursuit of jobs and wealth. Almost 200 years later, we're seeing a convergence of factors that will change history. During the Internet Information Age, as access to broadband becomes more prevalent in rural America, cost of living continues to rise in urban areas, and government services decline, the population flow will eventually reverse with more moving to rural areas than flowing towards urban. (Check out this report).

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Entrepreneurs, rural American markets await your drive and creativity. Go out and amaze us!