Installing fiber-optic internet in sparsely populated places like western Kansas is extremely expensive, even with government subsidies. But some smaller, local broadband providers are finding ways to make it work where the big national companies have not. Federal and state governments have poured billions into trying to bring more bandwidth to the remote corners of the country. But for many people in rural places, it hasn’t made any difference. An estimated 42 million Americans still don’t have high-speed internet, or what most people today simply think of as internet.
The “brain drain” from rural areas has been a problem across the country for decades. Since 2000, Emporia's population has declined more than 7 percent. It's now home to 24,724 people.
Missouri has 30 counties where more than a third of homes and businesses do not have access to high-speed internet service. There’s no single, unified effort to resolve the problem on federal, state or local levels, making it tough for businesses looking to move in and economic development more difficult for regions that need to attract those jobs.
Google Fiber says dozens of customers remain without home internet nearly two weeks after a major winter storm knocked out service for many across Kansas City. The company says technicians are "working night and day" to get subscribers back online, but many customers say they're fed up and that their trust in the Silicon Valley brand they once admired is gone. "We're actively looking to switch providers," says Julie Gronquist-Blodgett.