Entrepreneurship in Rural Communities

Rural Americans want leaders who help middle-class communities to plan and prosper over the long-term – not opportunists who reap the rewards for themselves, leaving nothing for the people who do the sowing.

Tom Vilsack

Every once in awhile, I get an email from somebody who is interested in sharing information with Strengthening Brand America readers.  Rose Haywood is a freelance writer and student with a focus on rural technology and other internet initiatives.  Rose sent me an email sharing a post on the impact of interactive technology on catalyzing sustainable rural economic growth.  Rose does a nice job describing how the digital divide makes it challenging for rural communities to reach their full potential.

My experience in working with Ohio’s Appalachian Region has allowed me to directly observe the problem Rose describes.  One key to unlocking the economic potential of our Nation’s Appalachian Region and other rural communities is investing in the creation of a world-class telecommunications capability for residents and businesses to succeed.

I think you are going to like Rose’s guest post.  Please take a moment to provide a comment.  As a student, I have no doubt Rose will appreciate any feedback that contributes to the educational value of her post.

The Difficulties of Entrepreneurship Without Rural Broadband

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, recently announced the launch of the global partnership Internet.org. Only 2.7 billion people, or one-third the population of the world, have Internet access. Various companies, including Facebook, Nokia, Opera and Samsung, have joined together to bring Internet access to the other 5 billion people of the world.

Similarly, CenturyLink has committed to bring broadband Internet to more than 92,000 homes and businesses in rural areas. Through funding from the Connect America Fund (CAF) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), CenturyLink will provide in areas where broadband is too cost prohibitive for residents.

The need to end the digital divide

CAF is one step closer to ending the digital divide that exists in the United States between rural and urban areas. Without high-speed Internet, there is an inequality in education, healthcare, economic development and other opportunities.

Without broadband, the economy suffers

According to the FCC, small businesses and consumers without access to broadband Internet cannot be a part of the $8 trillion global Internet economy. No access to high-speed Internet ultimately limits available jobs for residents in these rural areas, and therefore, a thriving economy is hard to produce.

The reasons small businesses need broadband access

The challenges of starting a small business without broadband Internet lead to little opportunity for economic development. Most businesses, whether in the IT field or not, require high-speed Internet. Businesses need broadband to:

  • Sell products online
  • Produce a website for consumers
  • Interact with customers on social media websites
  • Allow communication between employees through e-mail

The list does not stop there. Whether it is a bakery or an IT business, every business, big or small, needs access to high-speed Internet. If a town does not offer broadband, an entrepreneur will likely choose to start a business in another area where it is available.

The FCC notes that high-speed Internet allows for small businesses to be created anywhere, not just in urban markets. With broadband, a business in a rural town can reach customers and sell products in states across the country and overseas.

Rural towns’ economies can prosper with high-speed Internet

Despite the evident need for broadband access in rural areas, 18 million Americans, including entrepreneurs, could not access broadband in July 2012. Ultimately, rural areas need access to broadband in order to start small businesses, to create jobs and to earn more profit, allowing for economic prosperity.

Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger, business marketing student and advocate for equal access broadband initiatives. She resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA, but has been known to wander. You can connect with Rose via email or twitter.

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