How Can Rural Communities Be Expected to Compete, on Dialup?

This post is about a cause and a campaign, which is aimed at engaging the attention of high level influencers, decision-makers, legislators and generally the movers of the levers, to the urgent need for rural communities in America to have access to high speed Internet, and moving those influencers, decision-makers etc to practical action.

I don’t do causes much on this Thinking Home Business blog. Not because I don’t care about things, but because it’s just not that kind of blog.

But every now and again something comes along which seems very pertinent to the community of people who have home based businesses or who might be thinking about experiencing the many pleasures of this way of doing business, if the conditions were right.

For me, one of those conditions is broadband access – high speed Internet. Essential. Non-negotiable.

So I was frankly shocked to discover a week or so ago that some 61 per cent – 14.3 million – of homes across rural America do not have access to high speed Internet.

Which means that the possibilities available to me, in semi-rural Australia, are not available to all those people in the USA, which gave us the Internet in the first place!

Something isn’t right about that.

Mind you, I have to admit that if it hadn’t been for my own recent experience with having our Internet access “shaped” by our former Internet service provider – i.e. slowed to a dialup crawl – I might not have been as receptive as I was when an email arrived about this issue of the digital divide in rural America.

Quite frankly, I had forgotten till then how excruciating it can be to be stuck on dialup.

And at that time I was indeed experiencing immense frustration, first of all in just getting on line and then in temrs of not being able to use sites or services I normally use without any problems. I was even going out to McDonald’s and another local coffee shop with free wi-fi, to be able to get some basic work done.

That may help to explain why I paid attention to that email. It was from Megan Tady of FreePress and was alerting me to a multimedia report, Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road and asking me to share this information with you, the readers of this blog.

In the email, Megan wrote:

To get an up-close view of life on the digital dirt road, I spent five days in North Carolina — a textile-industry hub that has been hit hard by the economic downturn — documenting the challenges facing rural communities without high-speed access.

The report incorporates video interviews with people in towns across North Carolina and highlights just how challenging it can be for people to participate fully in the life of the broader society when the best they can get is dialup.

Across rural America there are families who are being denied, practically speaking, and on a continuing basis, not just for a week as I was, such basics – in contemporary terms – as:

  • the valuable access others of us have to information, instantly, globally
  • opportunities to participate fully, interactively, dynamically, in the democratic process
  • opportunities to nurture and build businesses, whether online or offline, or a combination of both
  • crucial information about the availability of employment in locations which are near enough to drive once you have the job, which with broadband you could have found out about online without getting in your car, but seriously expensive if you have to drive there just to find out what is available
  • facilities for children to learn and acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be able to compete and prosper in this 21st century

The Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road report is published at the InternetforEveryone site.

InternetforEverone is “a national initiative of public interest, civic and industry groups that are working to bring the benefits of a fast, affordable and open Internet connection to everyone in America”.

InternetforEveryone is calling on the Congress and the President “to act in the public interest by enacting a plan for the wired and wireless Internet” built on the principles of:

  • Access
  • Choice
  • Openness
  • Innovation

Although I was pretty cranky a week or so ago when I couldn’t get normal, broadband access, now all is hunky dory, with a new ISP (Internode), fast DSL service and savvy, friendly, seriously helpful tech support. And while in Australia, where I live, there are plenty of people who are currently denied, for all practical purposes, access to high-speed Internet, we fortunately have now a Federal Government which is officially committed to redressing that disadvantage with the rollout of a national broadband network intended to reach a whopping 98% of homes and businesses. And has budgeted for that.

I would like to think our American cousins, whose country invented the Internet and shared it with the rest of us, could expect no less.

I hope this blog post will encourage you to think about ways you can support those good people at InternetforEveryone in their great campaign “to bring the benefits of a fast, affordable and open Internet connection to everyone in America”. For a start, you might like to sign up for updates and/or join the conversation at InternetforEveryone’s Digital Town Hall.

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Love your Blog!! I agree that there should be a level playing field for everyone. As the world moves online, all should have access to the same opportunities.

  2. iLearningGlobal & Jomar
    Thanks – it’s really a no-brainer isn’t it? One of the biggest advantages I see for ubiquitous broadband, in terms of national government policy settings and budgets, is that it makes it more attractive and manageable for people to live in rural areas and not have yet more unsustainable crowding of the cities.
    David & Larrie
    Looks like, with yesterday’s announcement of a national broadband network, you’ve got your wish!
    Sydney
    Stands to reason, doesn’t it?
    best credit card
    Yes, it’s exciting news. We have to hope it doesn’t get bogged down in bureaucracy.

  3. best credit card says:

    The Australian Government just announced a $43 Billion dollar, National broadband “fibre-to-the-home” network to be built over eight years. This is going to improve Australia’s internet capacity greatly and make current networks obsolete. This will support 25,000 jobs a year for each year of construction, with 37 000 jobs in the peak year of construction, if your going to spend money on a Stimulus package you might as well get something good out of it. Lets see if other countries do something similar in there stimulus packages.

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  4. In the UK the government have introduced schemes to provide rural areas with broadband connections, this has worked wonders for the rural economy.

  5. Yes i agree broadband should be available nation wide. There is money available now from our goverment to expand coverage in remote areas.
    Thanks,
    Larrie

  6. As an Australian I too find it extremely surprising that this is the case in the US! I have also been shaped recently for going over my broadband download limit and had to pay the extra $10 to buy some more data as it was simply unbearable to try and work on the internet with the near dial-up speed. With the way websites are designed today with so many images, video etc. there is no way that people can be expected to compete if on slow internet speeds. Something really needs to be done as they will be left behind by the rest of the world if things do not improve.

  7. Pretty sure when somebody from the gov could read this they’ll realize that communication technology is worth investing for. Nice post. I agree.

  8. Good post. I agree that there should be a level playing field for everyone. As the world moves online, all should have access to the same opportunities.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Parker