WFH Survey Shows Better Internet in Rural Areas Would Attract New Residents

Kristin Cooke
Oct 26, 2020
Icon Time To Read4 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed offices and classrooms across America, with millions now working from home (WFH) and going to school remotely.1,2,3

With this new freedom to work from anywhere, we wanted to find out if Americans are interested in moving away from cities. And if so, what are they looking for in rural areas in regard to internet service?

We also wanted to find out if internet connection speeds are currently fast enough to support WFH and online schooling, particularly in rural areas

rural internet graphic

Here are some highlights from our report.

  • 54% of respondents said they were working from home in 2020.
  • 67% said that internet availability in an area would affect their decision to move somewhere more rural.
  • 36% said bad or limited internet access is preventing them from moving to more rural areas.
  • If given the chance to work from home permanently, 2 out of 3 respondents would move away from the city for more living space.
  • 29% said their internet connection at home is reimbursed by their employer.

Wanted: A big house in the country with fast internet

It’s no surprise that the switch to WFH has increased the desire for a bigger living space. Quarantining inside an apartment can be rough. Two out of three people say they’d move away from the city if they could WFH permanently (which will be the new normal for tens of thousands of workers, even after the pandemic).4,5 But for most of these people who could help revitalize rural areas, a good internet connection is essential. 

In our survey, 67% of people say they’ll take internet availability into consideration before moving to a rural area. This highlights the importance of expanding internet access into underserved areas, which has been shown to have a positive socioeconomic impact.6 People are craving the extra space and affordable housing they can get in rural areas, but they need to know how to get good internet in the country.

There are plenty of people in rural and urban areas who are struggling to stay connected during the pandemic: 29% of respondents said their current internet connection has difficulties supporting WFH or online learning. And over 30% are using a hotspot or mobile tethering at home to get internet access, which is often slower and more expensive than internet plans available in urban areas. Satellite internet is a good option for people looking for better coverage but has its own speed limitations.

More than 1 in 4 employers pay for home internet

As companies establish long-term WFH policies, employers are starting to pick up the tab for basic home office expenses.2 In our survey, we found that 28% of WFH employees say their internet is reimbursed by their employer. We also found that the top complaint about working from home is a slow or unreliable internet connection—so, a good way for employers to alleviate this problem is to pick up the tab for internet service. 

In case you’re wondering how employers can afford to pay for employees’ home internet, the answer is that companies save big money when employees work from home. According to Global Workplace Analytics, employers save $11,000 per year for each employee who works from home at least half time.7 Global Workplace Analytics calculated this savings rate based on numerous factors, including decreased real estate costs and absenteeism. 

Pro tip

 If you WFH and your company isn’t yet offering home internet reimbursement, ask if it’s something that’s being considered for next quarter. 

Impact of urban exodus on small towns and rural areas

For the first time in decades, millions of Americans are reconsidering the benefits of urban living and setting their sights on suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. The flight from urban centers is seen acutely in places like New York City, where 5,000 households a week have left the city since July 1.8

Although these moving trends may be temporary, some aspects of this urban exodus may be longer lasting. When we asked survey participants about what they’d do if WFH became a permanent option at their company, 66% of people said they would consider moving away from the city. These changing trends could have a significant impact on suburban and rural America for years to come.

Internet Access Is Critical for Revitalizing Rural America

Our survey not only reveals the prevalence of WFH during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also suggests how WFH will impact rural America now and into the future. Our findings suggest that rural areas with good internet access will continue to attract more new residents, while places without decent internet options will be seen as less desirable, falling further off the map.

As the urban exodus continues and WFH opportunities persist, broadband internet access will continue to be a critical factor in helping rural America adapt and prosper during the pandemic and beyond.

Methodology surveyed hundreds of Americans to learn more about how they’re working and studying from home in 2020. We asked them where they live, whether they’ve considered moving away from the city for more space, and whether internet availability would affect moving to a rural area. Participants were from ages 16 to 54+ and from all 50 states. The survey was distributed online via Pollfish.


  1. Wong, May, “Stanford Research Provides a Snapshot of a New Working-from-home Economy,” June 2020. Accessed October 13, 2020.
  2. Joey Hadden, Laura Casado, Tyler Sonnemaker, and Taylor Borden, “20 Major Companies That Have Announced Employees Can Work Remotely Long-Term,” October 2020. Accessed October 12, 2020.
  3. Snouwaert, Jessica, “54% of Adults Want to Work Remotely Most of the Time after the Pandemic, According to a New Study from IBM,” May 2020. Accessed October 13, 2020.
  4. Berliner, Uri, “Get A Comfortable Chair: Permanent Work From Home Is Coming,” June 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.
  5. Courtney, Emily, “27 Companies That Have Switched to Long-Term Remote Work,” September 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.
  6. Gallardo, Roberto; Whitacre, Brian; Kumar, Indraneel; and Upendram, Sreedhar, “Research Report: Broadband and Job Productivity – What Matters?,” August 2020. Accessed October 21, 2020.
  7. Global Workplace Analytics, “Latest Work-at-Home/Mobile Work/Telecommuting Statistics,” March 2020. Accessed October 21, 2020.
  8. Singh, Dhara, “Housing Expert: ‘Urban Exodus Appears to Be Real’,” October 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.
Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor,, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.