From the End of the World to Your Town

New Edge  In 2010 I interviewed Wayne Pearson, former president of the Smethport, PA chamber of commerce, for an article I was writing for NTCA’s Rural Telecom magazine entitled “Can Broadband Save Rural America?” In response to a question about the potential benefits of broadband to rural areas, Pearson responded, “If you can do your job from anywhere, why not choose small-town America?"

Why not, indeed?

In the years since that interview, more and more freelancers have come to the conclusion that rural America is the best place for them to ply their trade. In a Fast Company article entitled “Why These Freelancers Ditched Cities for Rural America,” author Amy Loehr takes a closer look at this phenomenon.

Loehr cites statistics from a survey conducted by Upwork and the Freelancers Union which shows that 55 million Americans—35% of the U.S. workforce—have done some form of freelance work in the past year. Further, 73% of freelancers say that technology makes it easier for them to find work.

While 35% of freelancers live in cities and 47% in the suburbs, 18% reside in rural areas. But as freelancing is “considerably more popular among millennials and gen Zers than with older age groups,” that rural percentage will likely increase as younger workers decide to put down roots and choose where they want to spend their lives and raise their families.

In the article, Loehr presents the stories of several freelancers who have migrated to rural America. The common threads running through their stories are the recognition of the advantages of rural life: lower cost of living, wide open spaces, and the ability to bring up children in a place where, in the words of one freelancer, they can “be around nature, experience a working-class environment, hopefully grow up in a place that was really a community, and learn to grow things.”

Of course, the key to unlocking the potential benefits broadband holds for rural America is the availability of robust and affordable broadband service throughout the country. As 2016 exits and we welcome in 2017, NTCA will continue to work closely with decision makers to enable our member companies to focus on their primary mission: delivering high-quality broadband throughout the nation.  

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