The Fight to Bring High-Speed Internet to Rural America

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Around the world two billion people now regularly use the Internet.  But in rural America, as recently as 2011, only 60 percent of households have internet access.

The nation-wide effort underway to bring internet to all parts of the country is not unlike the effort undertaken by the U.S. Rural Electrification Administration in the late 1930s. But even though federal stimulus programs have poured more than 7 billion dollars into reaching rural areas, at least 19 million Americans still lack high-speed internet access.

One of those communities still trying to get reliable broadband access is Silverton, Colorado.  Jason Wells, is Silverton’s Town Administrator. Brian Depew, Assistant Executive Director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska says the issues Silverton faces aren't unique to that area.

 

Around the world two billion people now regularly use the Internet. But in rural America, a recently as 2011, only 60 percent of households had internet access. 

The nationwide effort underway to bring internet to all parts of the country is not unlike the effort undertaken by the U.S. Rural Electrification Administration in the late 1930s. But even though federal stimulus programs have poured more than 7 billion dollars into reaching rural areas, at least 19 million Americans still lack high-speed internet access.

One of those communities still trying to get reliable broadband access is Silverton, Colorado. Jason Wells is Silverton’s town administrator. Brian Depew, assistant executive director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska says the issues Silverton faces aren't unique to that area.

Depew believes access to the internet is essential regardless of where you reside: "If you look at what internet has become and what it will continue to become…to your ability to engage in civic affairs, to be able to read the newspaper, and contact your elected officials. That is all moving online. And that makes internet a basic utility just like water and electricity are."

As Jason Wells attests, this is a real issue for many rural areas. Despite their efforts, Silverton, Colorado has been fighting for access for 13 years now and still has not succeeded, despite a statewide initiative that was executed to do just that. "We are one of 64 counties in the state of Colorado and yet U.S. Quest Communications failed to complete our build and decided to throw up a couple of microwave towers to get here and I think the reality for them was…there really just wasn’t a market case for them to build here."

"There was not a pot of gold at the end of our rainbow," Wells says.

Guests:

Brian Depew and Jason Wells

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [5]

Andy from NJ

Let me know your location and I will let you know what kind of speeds you can get and with which provider.

Aug. 24 2013 06:13 PM
Karla from Mountain Grove MO

I am searching and searching to find a high speed provider for our home in rural Missouri located on 400 acres. Every provider has a lag time which is not good for my on line gamer kids. Then when I finally found direct tv that runs fast enough but put's a data cap on service. I am coming from Indiana where high speed internet is one flat fee per month. I don't know how many hours 25 gb or mb is so overage is huge for me. Very confusing and hard to understand. Why must we have a cap. Why can't it be a flat fee and unlimited access and the price is out of this world for just the 25 which is the best internet package they have to offer.

Jun. 26 2013 10:22 PM
Lee Williamson from Portland Oregon

I live in a home that was built in 1906.
When I wanted to change a light fixture I had to call a plumber. The gas pipe poking out of the ceiling interfered with installing the new electric fixture to remove the pipe.

Feb. 26 2013 01:48 PM
Willow from Arlington TX

Although I enjoyed the discussion, you failed to mention that if Nikola Tesla had succeeded over Thomas Edison, we would not need electric lines at all. Edison had wealthy and powerful friends in government who helped him get his ideas traction over Tesla. It is a powerful lesson to us now to remember the past and not to dismiss the fringe innovators who might well have better and less expensive ideas.

Feb. 26 2013 01:03 PM
Mike Curtis from Arden, Delaware

I know this is rocket science, but when the government funds any infrastructure, like the internet, it ultimately benefits the landlords. All renters pay higher rents because of the increased benefits. Therefore, we could pay for the internet infrastructure and all infrastructure with a tax on the value of the land, which the improvements created. There would be no free riders, and the infrastructure would not be built prematurely, where it would not increase the rental value of land proportionately.

Feb. 26 2013 10:54 AM

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