The disparity in internet access between rural and urban areas in the United States has been a topic of conversation for years. But that problem has been exacerbated by the shift to digital work, schooling and social interactions brought about by the pandemic at its height in 2020.
As of early 2022, the disparity still exists in internet access, speed, and affordability. According to Surfshark’s Internet Value Index, two states in the eastern region of the United States are at opposite ends of the Internet value spectrum.
New Jersey and Mississippi have the highest and lowest Internet Value Index scores. New Jersey sees a score of .99 and Mississippi comes in with a .30, followed closely by Wyoming (.33) and Arkansas (.35). Surfshark’s Internet Value Index represents the value for money of the Internet in each state. The VPN service company explains its methodology in its blog post.
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According to Surfshark, half of the 50 US states pay too much for their internet service, and three out of four rural states pay too much, while three out of four urbanized states pay evenly.
Surfshark research concludes that Internet users in New Jersey only need one minute of their hourly wage to afford 5.5 Mbps of mobile Internet, compared to four minutes in Mississippian for the same speed.
For 45 Mbps of high-speed Internet, someone in New Jersey needs an hour’s pay to afford that speed, compared to 2.9 hours’ pay for a Mississippian.
“Three out of four rural states are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting fair internet prices, further insulating them from the opportunities that wealthier, more urban states present,” said Agneska Sablovskaja, principal researcher at Surfshark. , in a press release.
By region, northeastern states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island pay equally, unlike southern states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia, which pay more for less value.
What creates this disparity?
According to Surfshark, four variables are responsible for a state’s internet quality and the price it pays for internet services.
First, the richest states pay the least for the best Internet service, since 83% of these states have a high Internet Value Index. Conversely, poorer states pay more for lower quality Internet services.
High population density also dictates the price and quality of a state’s internet services. For example, New Jersey has a population density of 1,062 people per square mile compared to the US average of 87 people per square mile.
Additionally, states with densely populated urban areas have better internet quality and accessibility, as states in the Northeast region of the United States have three times as many urban areas as states. lower in the southern index.
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Finally, coastal states enjoy a higher Internet Value Index score, as the average for coastal states (0.65) is higher than for landlocked states (0.52).
But the Surfshark study indicates that these variables are not set in stone and can be overcome by investing more in a state’s internet infrastructure. The study cites Utah, a landlocked state with low population density, lower state income, and only 1% of the urban area ranked 15th on the index.
Access to mobile and broadband internet is crucial to the US economy, as internet access is required in almost every industry. According to the USDA, 22.3% of rural households do not have broadband Internet access, compared to 1.5% of Internet users in urban areas.
Congressional actions have resulted in initiatives such as ReConnect, which has invested more than $1 billion to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to urban areas.
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