Skip to main content

How McDonald’s and Corporate America are Bringing Internet Access to Rural America

Last Wednesday when two reporters covering the protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson needed Internet access, they headed to the local McDonald’s to get it. McDonald’s provides Wi-Fi free of charge and does not even require that guests purchase food in exchange for using the Internet. For many Americans across the country, McDonald’s plugs a gap in the country’s Internet infrastructure.

Lack of Access for Disadvantaged Communities

High-speed Internet access varies widely across

demographic groups

. Only 54 percent of families with incomes below $30,000 have broadband in their homes. In rural areas, only 62 percent of homes have high-speed access as compared with 73 percent in suburban areas. McDonald’s is uniquely situated to provide Internet access to these Americans for several reasons.

Advantages for Rural Communities



Where The Buffalo Roamed: How Far Can You Get From McDonald’s?

Government can and must do more to address this problem. In his recent Congressional


Darrell West highlighted several policy reforms that could extend the benefits of Internet access to numerous Americans.

  • More flexible rules for the mobile sector
  • Incentive auctions to re-allocate scarce spectrum
  • Fees for unused spectrum
  • Improved Infrastructure

The benefits of private businesses offering free Wi-Fi are impossible to deny. Access to high-speed Internet has numerous benefits including supporting small business, improving healthcare delivery, and enabling next generation education tools. These types of operations can play a powerful role in helping to make sure that every American has access to high-speed Internet.


Get daily updates from Brookings