Thursday, November 30, 2023

December 12, 2023 9:00 AM

Title: From hurdles to high-speed: A Community Capital Framework approach to understanding barriers to broadband adoption and availability in North Carolina's rural counties

Committee members: Lori Cramer, Mark Edwards, Shawn Hazboun

Abstract: Access to broadband internet is vital for rural communities in the digital age, but persistent barriers impact adoption and availability. This topic is analyzed through the lens of the Community Capital Framework (Emery & Flora, 2006). By surveying county commissioners, the research aims to better understand rural broadband challenges and opportunities from a local perspective. A survey was constructed, utilizing the seven types of community capital to inform the questions, and sent to 385 county commissioners in 77 rural counties in North Carolina. Given previous literature on capital types in rural communities, it was anticipated that deficits in financial capital and human capital would yield the most barriers to broadband adoption and availability. However, the research findings suggest barriers related to financial capital, social capital, and built capital are most prevalent and daunting to overcome in North Carolina’s rural counties. The theme of rural isolation was underlined in many reported barriers and highlighted the ways in which each type of capital manifested in rural communities. This research identified unique rural broadband hurdles and underscored the pressing need for equitable broadband access and rural-centered solutions. By understanding and addressing these barriers, policymakers and community leaders can develop tailored strategies for digital equity and inclusion for all North Carolinians.

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