Giving Compass' Take:

• A study from Oklahoma State University and Purdue indicated that government policies dictate rural internet access and availability. 

• How can local rural donors help expand internet access across states with prohibitive broadband policies? 

• Read how COVID-19 highlights the connectivity gap for rural communities. 

As workplaces and schools go online to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many people are relying on a strong internet connection. But in some states, less than 50% of rural households have access to broadband, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission.

A study from Oklahoma State University and Purdue found that some government policies can increase -- or inhibit broadband availability in rural areas.

The researchers found state funding and establishing a state broadband office have been shown to improve broadband access in rural areas. Around 30 states have a state broadband office with full-time employees, and half of states have line items in their budgets for broadband funding.

According to the study, rural areas saw an increase of broadband availability from 24% in 2012 when many states began implementing policies, to 71% in 2018.

But 19 states, including Missouri, Nebraska and Texas, restrict whether cities and municipalities can have their own broadband network.

Some states, like Colorado, have removed the restrictive policies.. While Oklahoma doesn’t have restrictions, it does not specifically fund companies to build rural broadband nor does it have a state-established broadband office with full-time employees. The Oklahoma legislature created Rural Broadband Expansion Council earlier this year to make recommendations for new policies to help expand broadband and reduce internet costs.

Read the full article about rural internet access by Seth Bodine at Harvest Public Media.