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Tara Lachapelle

5G Won't Help Rural Americans Shelter in Place

The focus on faster wireless networks has left a hole in home internet coverage at a time when it's needed most.

Remote learning? Maybe not if you live in small towns.

Remote learning? Maybe not if you live in small towns.

Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images North America

While the U.S. government and telecommunications industry have been engrossed in the race to 5G, much of the country is still in a slow crawl to regular home internet service. It’s a mistake with economic consequences, and unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic could provide the harshest evidence of that. 

Americans all around the country are being advised to stay home to slow the spread of the disease. That means adults and children are powering up their computers, laptops and tablets to work and study remotely for the time being, if they can. It’s part of a nationwide social-distancing effort that could go on for weeks or even months, as experts aren’t sure how the health crisis will progress from here. What may be more certain is that the near shutdown of the country’s economy will expose and perhaps exacerbate the digital divide that exists between wealthier cities that have reliable internet access and the many rural towns that don’t.