Today's update discusses rural broadband issues and federal regulatory action that was taken this month to help close the digital divide in Rural America. The update also touches on a couple of legislative proposals regarding broadband expansion, and highlights a recent USDA survey that documents how many farmers are using the Internet and how they are currently connecting.
Last month, a Wall Street Journal article provided an in-depth look at a variety of statistical indicators from rural America in an article titled, "Rural America is the New, 'Inner City.'" That article explained that, "In terms of poverty, college attainment, teenage births, divorce, death rates from heart disease and cancer, reliance on federal disability insurance and male labor-force participation, rural counties now rank the worst among the four major U.S. population groupings (the others are big cities, suburbs and medium or small metro areas).” The Journal continued its "One Nation, Divisible" series with a front page article in Friday's paper that focused on a different aspect of rural development: Broadband Internet access.
Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg reported on the front page of Saturday's Wall Street Journal that, "At the corner where East North Street meets North Cherry Street in the small Ohio town of Kenton, the Immaculate Conception Church keeps a handwritten record of major ceremonies. Over the last decade, according to these sacramental registries, the church has held twice as many funerals as baptisms. In tiny communities like Kenton, an unprecedented shift is under way. Federal and other data show that in 2013, in the majority of sparsely populated U.S. counties, more people died than were born—the first time that’s happened since the dawn of universal birth registration in the 1930s."
A recent study ("Income Trends for Iowa Farms and Farm Families 2003-2015") by David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist with Iowa State University, summarized current trends in farm income by type of farm operation and pointed to more specific issues regarding the importance of non-farm income to the financial picture of farm households.