Connecting a Divided America

As Election Day 2016 approaches, the political division in America becomes increasingly obvious. The Associated Press recently published a revealing series of articles on Divided America, exploring the tensions and disconnects between different populations of the country. As one of its articles highlighted, one of the starkest political dividing lines in America today is the urban-rural divide. What is causing the ever-rising tension between these populations? Surely, there are a lot of factors at play—different lifestyles, different types of work, and exposure to different groups of people. But as technology becomes an ever-larger part of American life, one factor is a source of increasing disparity between urban and rural populations—telecommunications infrastructure and ability to connect to the Internet. Professor Katherine Cramer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studies political attitudes in rural America, reports that rural Americans want better Internet connectivity, and they feel that their concerns are not being heard. According to Professor Cramer, “The lack of fast and efficient internet access impedes access to jobs and education, and perpetuates disparities in the quality of K-12 education between [] rural and more urban communities…. but better internet access could change that.” But for rural Americans, progress in telecommunications infrastructure comes at a frustratingly slow pace. As with other infrastructure needs like improved roads, snow plowing, and even access to water, rural Americans’ needs routinely fall farther down the totem pole of priorities than those of urban Americans. If we are serious about uniting an increasingly divided country—whether we think we are ‘Stronger Together’ or we want to ‘Make America Great Again’—we cannot afford to leave rural America behind...