This country is vast. “Miles and miles of little more than telephone line”, I wrote last summer after half-cross country road trip.
The costs of providing and maintaining that infrastructure miles and miles between neighbors is baffling to me. Let along the fact we electrified the cornfields 70 years ago.
But, unlike energy – we can’t get broadband internet access from the wind and water around us. Something has to literally connect us to the rest of the world – and fast (in both senses of the word).
Internet access has an interesting potential to revive dying rural towns – for the exact same reason it’s helping India, China, Brazil, Russia, and Eastern Europe – people can work worldwide, get paid worldwide-ish wages, and maintain a lower cost of living.
This is why customer call centers are in the Dakotas.
50 years ago – electricity and telephone service meant survival, today – it’s high-speed internet access.
Compare this from the Wikipedia entry on the Rural Utilities Service:
“Many were critical of the decision, in particular private electricity utilities, who argued that the government had no right to compete with private enterprise (though many of those utilities refused to extend their lines to rural areas, claiming lack of potential profitability as the reason)”
And this from With a Dish, Broadband Goes Rural in the New York Times:
“Roughly 15 million households cannot get broadband from their phone or cable provider because the companies have been slow to expand their high-speed networks in areas where there are not enough customers to generate what they regard as an adequate profit.”
The mindset of the incumbents hasn’t changed in 70 years – we need a Rural Internet-ification Administration to bring new life to our rural areas.
Thanks to PFHyper for the pointer