Access to the internet is changing commerce for rural small businesses: 39 percent of them in Pennsylvania say they now sell their goods outside the state, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon. However, many say there are still roadblocks.
The report identifies rural small businesses as companies in non-metropolitan counties with fewer than 500 employees; 72 percent of those surveyed had five employees or fewer.
Two-thirds of these small companies say a lack of reliable internet and cell phone access has a negative impact on their businesses.
Technology policy expert and Penn State University Sascha Meinrath said more than 90 percent of rural Pennsylvania doesn't have good, reliable broadband access. He said this puts businesses in those areas at a competitive disadvantage.
"The lack of broadband connectivity is causing substantial opportunity cost," Meinrath said. "That is not taken into account in terms of our national policy making."
Meinrath acknowleged it costs money to build out broadband connectivity quickly. But, he said it would be worth it to help these rural small businesses compete in their fields, a sentiment shared by the authors of the report.