Who’s Got Broadband and Who Doesn’t?

Percentage of households with broadband by locality. Source: Virginia Public Access Project based on the 2013-2017 American Community Survey.

This map, published today by the Virginia Public Access Project, shows clearly the metropolitan/rural divide in access to broadband Internet access. Some rural areas obviously enjoy better broadband service than others. Look at the cluster of counties to the south and west of the Washington metropolitan area. Look at the cities and counties running down the I-81 corridor from Winchester to Blacksburg. Many are low-density localities, but somehow they have higher broadband penetration.

It would be interesting to know what sets them apart. Do they have more tightly clustered populations that can be served economically by broadband providers? Do they have activist local governments that subsidize local broadband initiatives? Are they one-off cases like Montgomery County, site of Virginia Tech, with a huge wired campus that skews the numbers? If Governor Ralph Northam gets the money for broadband he is asking for, I would hope that any state-led broadband initiative would take local peculiarities into account.

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8 responses to “Who’s Got Broadband and Who Doesn’t?”

  1. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    My goodness, broadband must cause opiod addiction (look at the opioid map in the previous post) or opioid addiction disproportionately affects people with broadband so it should be outlawed. The maps correlate so it must be true. Demonstrating correlation versus causation is fun.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      My thought exactly. It suggest too the overarching view that Broadband is driving us all crazy, particularly if it’s used to disseminate Jim Bacon’s homemade colored charts.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I certainly think some Facebook spats cause “depression”. My GAWD – the horror and agony when someone is “unfriended” or more seriously – folks who are bullied on social media….

      but with respect to broadband and rural – when this country was younger – and to a certain extent – even now in some places – there were large regions that did not have grid electricity nor telephone service. It was not profitable enough for the for-profit utility providers – and even though they often had monopolies – they were not forced to expand to unprofitable areas as a condition of their monopoly.

      So it was the Government who changed that. The govt stepped in and either directly or indirectly through incentives got rural areas electrified and telephone service.

      In fact, it was the govt that put roads in to many rural areas – in Va, it was Byrd but other states did it also; In Texas, such roads are called Farm-to-Market roads.


  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I has always wondered if the rural electrification methods, a coop approach, would work. About 90 years ago that would have been a map of electric service in VA. REA was one of the better aspects of FDR’s administration.

  3. The Census Bureau (source of the VPAP map) must be using a relatively generous definition of broadband. The map says 66 percent of households in my county (Floyd) have broadband access. Well, the download speed at home this morning is 6.9 Mbps, just a bit higher than the last two times I checked. That’s about what my friends here have, too. What most people would consider broadband is available here only in town and along a few outlying roads where Citizens Telephone has laid fiber cable to the end of people’s driveways. (I give Citizens credit; at least they have begun to upgrade.)

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    If we better define what “broadband” is and is not – we understand better.

    For instance – my view is that “broadband” is cable – not cellular nor satellite dish , no matter what some folks say or even what the speed is, because cellular is so costly that it’s just not financially viable for most folks.

    On the other hand, make no mistake that if we made maps showing the extent of the cell phone network that did provide internet (4G usually) – that map would be far more “populated” than cable broadband.

    The reality is though that quite a bit rural may never get hardline internet
    unless it is done like rural electric and telephone was done.
    Until then, it’s going to come via towers of some kind – and actually is
    right now but heavy bandwidth users pay a hefty price for it.

    Long story short – those of good financial means that live in rural areas are
    going to pony up the money to get “internet” right now. Those on the other end of the financial spectrum – can’t afford it though they WILL use their cell phones when they must but hardline broadband is only going to get to them if the govt did what it did with electricity and telephone.

    So , if we already have the poles that carry electric and telephone… why not
    internet cable?

  5. S. E. Warwick Avatar
    S. E. Warwick

    In some places, Verizon will no longer install “landline” telephones.

    My guess is that the I-81 corridor jurisdictions may have used “tobacco” money to install broadband infrastructure. It takes more than money to get cable to a given area. Comcast can be very picky about where it will run its lines, even if homeowners are willing to pony up large sums of money for the service. Some electric coops do provide internet service.

  6. TooMuchRegulation Avatar

    Government incentived rural electricification and farm roads (not the cars that drive them) lead to sprawl and sparseification. Cheap, rural land became more accessable without purchasers having the front the infrastructure cost. Now, they want better internet, better roads, better schools. No problem, just add more central planning, more regulation, more bureaucrats and higher taxes to pay for it, while driving up the costs of those services to everyone else.

    Being from a county in the RofVa, which has a mix of suburban and rural areas, its interesting to see the disparity between those areas of the same county. Reasonably adequent (though not state of the art, and more expensive to boot) broadband is available in the suburban corridors, but drive 30 minutes into the rural areas and one NOW struggles to get a landline, let alone celluar or broadband (wired or wireless).

    Eventually, 5G and LEO Sats may resolve these issues…. assuming the encumbent players aren’t sucessful in using their political influence to block out competitors.

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