Why City Folks Must Fight For Rural Broadband
The major ISPs and the federal government have utterly failed in their duty to provide broadband service to rural Americans. If you live in a city or suburban area with excellent Internet service, should you care? The answer is YES. Read on to find out why extending high-speed Internet to wide-open spaces could put more money in your pocket...
The Case For Rural Broadband
Some 68 million rural citizens have only one choice for phone, television, and Internet service at download speeds of 25 Mbps or faster: Comcast (30 million) or Charter Communications (38 million). Both rank in the bottom half of Consumer Reports’ latest survey of consumer perceptions of value received from their broadband providers.
Even worse off are many Americans for whom DSL service delivered over century-old copper wire networks is the only option. The telephone companies have largely avoided upgrading their obsolete copper networks in rural areas where they face no competition from cable companies. They get away with this dereliction of their statutory duty by overstating the availability of broadband in their service areas.
The broadband availability data upon which the FCC relies comes from Form 477, a standardized method of reporting that all ISPs must submit to the FCC twice a year. But the Institute for Local Self-Reliance points out four ways in which Form 477 is flawed and can be gamed by the ISPs who complete it. For instance, an ISP can claim it provides broadband to an entire Census Block even if it provides broadband to only one residence in that block.
The watchdog General Accounting Office says the FCC vastly overstates broadband availability on Native American tribal lands, which makes it more difficult for residents to get money allocated to help them build broadband networks.
Ah, but you live in an “urban” area, what might be called “the big city” out there in the sticks. So what does it matter to you if Mule Shoe, Texas, has lousy broadband service? Read on and I will explain how this failure of rural broadband has taken money out of your pocket and will take more in the future. I argue that it is in your best interest to join your country cousins in their lobbying efforts to get more and better broadband options.
Here in the 21st Century, broadband is a decisive resource in one’s ability to create a bearable life, not just to compete for the best that life has to offer. Without broadband, rural residents are cut off from all the information, tools, and communications channels that city folk take for granted (until a sunspot causes a temporary Internet outage. Then city slickers run in circles crying, “The sky is falling, aliens have landed!”) For rural residents, broadband is the difference between fully participating in the global economy and trading zucchini for chickens with one’s immediate neighbors.
Is Slow Internet Depopulating Rural Areas?
Most young people balk at such a limited existence, and move to urban areas in search of the American dream. The availability and quality of broadband service plays a large role in modern families’ choice of location, perhaps as large as the quality of local schools. Families and single people tend to concentrate around areas where broadband is the best.
These people demand not only broadband but also housing, roads, electricity, sewer systems, supermarkets and restaurants, and all the other amenities that you compete to buy. When many people concentrate in a limited geographic area, their concentrated demand drives up prices for everything.
It's true that many young people are leaving rural communities, but it's not because it takes too long to upload a photo to Instagram. They leave for education and better job opportunities. But many of them miss the sense of community in small towns, contact with nature, and safe places to raise a family.
If broadband providers were forced to build out their best networks to rural areas, as they are supposed to be forced by law, then rural dwellers would have access to online learning, tele-health services and jobs via telecommuting.
With ubiquitous high-speed Internet, people would not concentrate in urban areas and demand would subside to a new equilibrium point. Prices of everything from gas to houses would come down. So says traditional free market theory, anyway.
So, dear reader, it behooves you to belabor your dully (sic) elected legislative representatives, from city council to Washington, DC, with the message, “Get broadband to rural America now!”
Your thoughts on this issue are welcome. Please leave them in the comments below.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Sep 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Why City Folks Must Fight For Rural Broadband (Posted: 21 Sep 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved