Broadband is Critical for Working From Home

By Shirley Bloomfield | CEO NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association

Nearly all of us have spent at least some time this past year working from home. And while remote work surged during the pandemic, it certainly isn’t a new idea.

Between 2005 and 2017, according to Statista, there was a 159% increase in remote work. Today 11.2% of Americans are working from home, up from 5.7% in 2019. And many are growing to prefer it — 22% of workers say they’d like to work from home permanently. I believe full-time remote work makes it difficult to create and maintain a collaborative work culture, but I do think that work is likely to have a new face when we get back to “normal.”

The Foundation for Rural Service recently published a white paper entitled “Rural America’s Critical Connections.” (You can download it for free at www.frs.org.) The report cites a Global Workplace Analytics report that states, “Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.” What does this mean for broadband, that critical connection that helps us work remotely? It certainly means our country needs to continue the work to get broadband to everyone — and that in doing so we must build robust networks using technology proven to support the speeds and synchronous connections that working from home requires. Regardless of the work patterns and flexibility we see in the coming year, one thing is for certain: NTCA members, such as your provider, will continue to be at the forefront of connecting rural America.