Broadband comes to the heartland... slowly.

Thousands of acres of farmland in Mississippi County, Mo., rest underwater as a result of historic flooding this spring.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Only 60 percent of rural Americans have access to broadband. Today the Department of Agriculture is announcing millions of dollars for small communities throughout the country to change that. Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: Steph Larsen lives on a farm in Nebraska. To get Internet there, she had to build a wi-fi receiver.

Steph Larsen: One of our neighbors happened to have a 30 foot utility pole that he wasn't using, so we bartered -- I think it was a bushel of cherries.

And even now, Larson's Internet is barely fast enough to stream a Netflix movie. Today, Nebraska is one of 16 states that will get USDA money to provide broadband.

Kurt Scherf is a tech analyst with Parks Associates. He says large telecom companies won't offer high speed Internet if they can't get enough subscribers to pay for the infrastructure.

Kurt Scherf: In some cases, you do need a government entity to come in and basically subsidize services to these small underserved and rural areas.

Steph Larsen, whose day job is with the Center for Rural Affairs, says today's announcement is not enough.

Larsen: There's still so many people who can't access customers, they can't access their legislators, they can't access government grants because they don't have Internet access.

Because she says it's hard to get ahead today with an Internet connection from the 1990's.

I'm Jennifer Collins, for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.


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