Rural Broadband Access in Florida

Published: February 12, 2019 | James Madison Institute

Florida’s population is largely concentrated in the Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville metropolitan Areas. The relatively rural panhandle and everglades regions have smaller populations that are growing slowly (if not decreasing). Rural counties also have some of the highest poverty rates across the state. Poverty rates in completely (21%) and mostly (20%) rural counties, on average, are much higher than in urban (14%) counties. Moreover, 36% of completely or mostly rural counties have poverty rates above 20 percent compared to just 12 percent of urban counties. Much of Florida’s growth has evaded these rural areas.

Meanwhile, computer and internet use have become essential to economic opportunity in the 21stcentury. Land-wise Florida has acquired over 95 percent of broadband coverage, but according to “BroadbandNow,” an internet provider database, 10 percent of Florida’s population is still underserved. It would be reasonable to predict that areas in which broadband service is not as readily available would have greater challenges in leveraging that economic expansion. That challenge presents itself here in the Sunshine State. Fewer households have broadband internet subscriptions in rural counties and counties with high rates of poverty. In Dixie and Glades counties, more than 50 percent lack adequate access to the internet. Dixie County also has the fourth highest poverty rate in the state. The relationship between poverty, population density, and internet access may not be particularly surprising, but it is important.

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