Although Internet use in rural areas has increased substantially over the past 20 years, a gap in urban and suburban areas remains. 

Nine out of 10 rural adult residents use the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center's annual survey of Americans' Internet usage with data collected from 2000 to 2021. In urban and suburban areas, this rate reaches 95% and 94%, respectively. 

[Read more: GRAPHIC: How Midwest farms use computers]

Another study published by USDA's Economic Research Service, which uses data from 2015 to 2019, also shows that Internet access is lower in consistently poor rural counties. In these counties, Internet access decreases to 70% of households.

The importance of Internet use in U.S. households became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when education, work and commerce relied extensively on it.

Mónica Cordero is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Top image: A storm hovers over an Illinois rural landscape on May 29, 2015. photo by Darrell Hoemann, Investigate Midwest