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Broadband Gap Narrowing Between Rural, Urban America

Rural Americans are narrowing the broadband gap with people living in urban and suburban areas, a research firm said.

At the end of 2005, 24 percent of rural Americans had high-speed Internet connections at home, compared with 39 percent of adult Americans living elsewhere, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said in a report released Sunday. In 2003, 9 percent of rural Americans had broadband at home, which was less than half the rate (22 percent) for urban and suburban Americans.

In general, rural broadband users were the same as home high-speed users elsewhere, going online more often and participating in more online activities than dial-up users, the research firm said. In terms of specific activities, however, rural users were more likely to take classes for credit online, download screensavers and download videogames.

"For certain things, like taking classes online, the internet is a real distance-killing benefit for rural Americans," Katherine Murray, co-author of the Pew report, said in a statement.

Access to the Internet from any location and over any connection was also closing. Fully 62 percent of adults living in rural areas of the United States could access the Internet at the end of last year, compared with 70 percent of adults in urban and suburban locales, the research firm said. The gap was about half of what it was at the end of 2003.

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