As noted in a recent issue of The New Yorker, Kentucky’s Jackson and Owsley Counties were already poor, and were set back that much more when fire ravaged a local manufacturing plant in 2005. But a local phone cooperative used stimulus money (not to mention a few mules) to wire every building, giving the area lightning-fast wireless access and attracting Internet-based jobs. With the arrival of the innovation, the local economy was reborn.

This story is a perfect example of how the Internet is vital to the future of society as it has become essential to modern living, similar to how electricity became a staple in the early 1900s. That’s because it facilitates education and economic growth and promotes conversations that fuel and inspire community.

As 5G now comes into play to foster faster transfers of broadband between each interconnected smart device, the telecommunications industry will begin to capitalize on the opportunities that these new broadband technologies have to offer us. Outlooks centered on the progress for the broadband sector predict slow, but hopeful growth. 

The Future of Broadband: 100% Connectivity by 2030

If deployment of broadband remains the same, the United States is on track to achieve 100% connectivity by 2030. Many underserved areas that are not currently wired will prove difficult to service for economic or topographical reasons. To close the digital divide, the public and private sector will need a serious commitment to achieve 100% connectivity through key strategies.

Among these strategies, effective mapping and smart government funding can help the connectivity goal become a reality. By improving mapping, for instance, it could help officials making funding decisions by indicating where those gaps exist. However, technologies like low-Earth orbit satellites can reach difficult-to-wire areas. While they are not yet in operation, it is likely these technologies will continue evolving during the 2020s. 

SpaceX’s Starlink project is one such entity trying to provide faster broadband to the world through their satellite technology. The robust broadband installation in areas that have difficulty with access or where it’s impossible to wire could be a game changer for people, local businesses and the industry, at large.

Further community broadband initiatives will hasten the pace of adoption in low-competition regions. Local municipal broadband initiatives have already installed connectivity in hundreds of communities. Over the next decade, researchers expect that the many laws and regulations which ordinarily roadblock such solutions, will be eliminated due to more engaged citizens who are better acquainted with broadband policy issues, thanks to the upcoming election cycle and the awareness of digital disparity.

Rural Economic Growth in the Next Decade

Similar to the manufacturing plant in Kentucky’s Jackson and Owsley counties, broadband can support further rural economic growth by offering a boost for businesses and residents who are struggling to keep up or have been left behind in the digital economy. The World Bank reports that a 10 percent increase in broadband implementation can deliver a 1.21 percent bump in GDP growth. This means offering broadband to only two million new rural American residents can add $4.8 billion to the United States economy each year.

Broadband is increasingly used in commerce today and expanding services and increasing access and utilization of digital tools and tech resources by small businesses in rural communities will likely stimulate up to $80 billion in revenue. At the same time, it can reduce rural unemployment rates and create new jobs through remote working and online services. Online learning and career training can also help rural workers raise their earning potential by 29 percent as they obtain higher education degrees and vocational skills. 

2020 Broadband Predictions 

Despite previously slow deployment rates across the United States, the past decade was a true period of exponential change and innovation for broadband. In this new decade, key trends and developments in the broadband industry are setting the pace for further growth.

This year alone, broadband will be live in all major U.S. cities. Next generation 5G mobile service is already being used in major U.S. cities like San Francisco and Chicago across all networks. In 2020, carriers in other major cities like New York City are rolling out their 5G strategies and infrastructures as more devices are released that support the baseband. If all goes to plan, despite supply chain and other economic delays caused by the coronavirus, it’s plausible that every major market in the country will have at least one new provider offering commercially-viable 5G services.

While we are currently in an economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessity of installing efficient broadband operations with 5G capabilities to both rural and urban communities shows promise to jumpstart the economy. As businesses and hospitals crucially rely on more interconnect devices and communications to support public and private sector stability, progress won’t falter due to the importance and growth of broadband — not only in America, but across the world.