Comcast: Using Broadband to Bridge the Rural Digital Divide

Broderick D. Johnson, Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity for Comcast Corporation.
Comcast has brought high-speed broadband to Stafford County, Virginia for the first time, boosting economic growth and bridging the rural digital divide

The US rural digital divide and its impact on local communities is an area of prominent research and concern.

The American Journal of Agricultural Economics published a study called ‘Rural Broadband Speeds And Business Startup Rates’ , finding a definitive link between positive business growth and broadband speed. Rural small businesses miss out on vital opportunities to expand their client base and boost revenue through online sales and marketing, hindering productivity.

These businesses are missing out a lot, according to the Federal Communications Commission's FCC ‘Broadband Deployment Report’. A staggering 17% of Americans in rural areas lack broadband access compared to 1% of those living in urban areas. 

Working to address this disparity is broadband provider Comcast, with its leading US broadcast expansion initiatives. The company’s ongoing America Rescue Plan has led to increased public-private partnerships. These include the partnership between Comcast and Stafford County, which created the Stafford County Project to enhance rural broadband expansion in Stafford County, Virginia.

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The expansion was made possible due to support from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Telecommunications Initiative (VATI), which used Comcast’s ultrafast Xfinity network to pass nearly 700 additional homes to those planned. Comcast technicians utilise a world-class network with fibre splicers that allow for the connection of strands of fibre optic cable, enhancing the reliability and speed of the provider's service.

The project has allowed many Stafford County residents to subscribe to high-speed broadband for the first time. Like Richard, a resident of Stafford County and a Navy veteran.  He says: “The Comcast service we now have is very fast and extremely reliable. My wife is a high school teacher of 42 years. During the COVID pandemic, because we didn't have high-speed Internet, she had to go to the school to remotely teach her students.” 

The benefits of reliable internet access are profound. It makes hiring workers and obtaining suppliers more efficient and cost-effective. It also allows for the introduction and integration of innovative digital technologies, like cloud and AI, that enhance operations and rely on the internet to function.

A 2020 McKinsey study found that broadband massively boosts the agricultural sector, allowing for enhanced crop and livestock monitoring which has the potential to increase North American agricultural output by 8.7% by 2030.

David Don, SVP, of Public Policy at Comcast.

“Comcast brings to local communities its deep-rooted commitment to high-quality technology, widespread adoption, and services that are stable, secure, and innovative,” says David Don, SVP of Public Policy at Comcast.

Comcast has pledged US$1bn through Project UP to deliver the digital skills and connectivity communities need to succeed today. This amount includes US$39m which has been invested in over 127 non-profits across Virginia, which help people take full advantage of the internet and connect with their local community.

Our mission, our people and our history of innovation are at the heart of Comcast’s broadband expansion strategy," adds Broderick D. Johnson, EVP of Public Policy and EVP of Digital Equity for Comcast Corporation.

"I’m pleased to say we are on track to pass more than one million additional homes and businesses with our network this year – and we’re just getting started.”

In today's deeply interconnected world, business and technology are inextricably linked, and improving local economic vibrancy is dependent on visible online platforms and quality broadband solutions. A lack of broadband is both a cause and a symptom of poverty and reduced opportunity, which Comcast is working to address.

As communities across the US await the first disbursements from Comcast’s Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program anticipated later this year, the paramount importance of broadband becomes. As does the need for non-profits, private companies and government agencies to engage in collective partnership to boost the economic future of the communities they represent. 


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