Rural Communities in Southern Arizona Lag the Nation in Internet Access

July 22, 2019

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Arizona's Economy
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Southern Arizona rural communities lag national, urban average in internet subscriptions; impeding educational, economic opportunities.

TUCSON, Ariz. (July 22, 2019) -- In small, rural communities across Southern Arizona, internet access is not always available or reliable, a resource residents of large urban communities -- like Tucson -- might take for granted.

Reliable high-speed internet, an indispensable resource in today’s world that allows anyone to do such things as work remotely, take online classes or simply connect with each other may impede educational and economic opportunities for rural residents, according to a report published June 24 by Katelyn Chamarro, a research economist in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

Internet access is not available or is unreliable for many residents in 38 communities across Pima, Pinal, Cochise, Greenlee, Graham, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties, Chamarro’s research pointed out.

“Non-urban areas tend to have less access to the internet due to insufficient infrastructure as well as the expense involved,” Chamarro said. “In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission found that 80 percent of the 24 million American households who lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. Internet access is vital throughout society in how we do business, interact with government and connect with others.”

Nearly all Southern Arizona non-urban communities examined in Chamarro’s report had a lower percentage of households with an internet subscription than the U.S. rate of 78.7 percent.

Chamarro’s report did point out that in addition to rural vs urban, another correlation for high quality internet access is income.

“Even within a community, households with higher income tend to have greater access to the internet, Chamarro said. “For example, in Arizona, 54.8 percent of households with income less than $20,000 had broadband internet. For households with income over $75,000, 93.4 percent had broadband. This pattern holds for all geographies regardless of urban or non-urban status.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a $600 million program of grants and loans to improve broadband accessibility to non-urban areas. In addition, the Pima Association of Governments is conducting the Regional Assessment of Advanced Communications Infrastructure Needs and Opportunities to guide next steps for improving internet access that could advance economic growth, enhance government services and increase the quality of life in the region.

Without investment, communities without internet access are in danger of falling behind the growing digital economy. Workers are now expected to have a large amount of digital know-how when entering the workplace.

“With sufficient internet access, a person can live anywhere and do many higher-paying jobs remotely than those available in their small rural areas,” Chamarro said.

Of all Southern Arizona non-urban communities, Miami’s 38 percent was the lowest among households with an internet subscription.

The Corona de Tucson census-designated place (CDP), which is a concentration of population defined by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes, had the highest percentage of households with internet subscriptions at 97 percent. The Vail CDP was just behind at 93.9 percent.

Vail and Corona de Tucson are unique in that they are just outside the Tucson urbanized boundary, have experienced substantial population growth since 2000 and have high median household incomes.

Among the Southern Arizona urban communities, 14 had lower internet subscription rates than the U.S. mark of 78.7 percent. South Tucson had the lowest percentage in the region at 48 percent. Eloy was second-lowest at 59.4 percent.

Marana posted the highest rate of all urban communities at 92.2 percent. Sahuarita and the Tanque Verde CDP were at 91.8 percent.

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About MAP DASHBOARD MAP – Making Action Possible for Southern Arizona, and referred to as the MAP Dashboard, is a partnership with the University of Arizona Eller College; the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA; the Pima Association of Governments; Sun Corridor, Inc.; and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC). The MAP Dashboard Project was created to measurably improve Southern Arizona through data-driven collective civic action and education. The University of Arizona’s Eller Economic and Business Research Center has built the MAP Dashboard and will keep the information up to date. The MAP Dashboard Project provides our region’s first common set of indicators in a single, easy-to-access source of reliable information. That information is available at www.mapazdashboard.arizona.edu.

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Contact: Jan Howard,

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