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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