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Rural Oregon Waits a Bit Longer for Broadband

No matter how remote the area, the Federal Communications Commission says broadband Internet access should be possible within the next few years. Photo near Plush, Ore., by Chris Thomas
No matter how remote the area, the Federal Communications Commission says broadband Internet access should be possible within the next few years. Photo near Plush, Ore., by Chris Thomas
September 21, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - Just over 50,000 homes and businesses in Oregon are on the list to get a broadband Internet connection - some for the first time.

The Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund started three years ago, for broadband service expansions that could take up to six years to complete.

According to FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield, the goal is to get higher-speed Internet service to sparsely-populated areas, by adding some financial incentive for providers to install or upgrade the technology.

"Rural areas tend to be more expensive to serve because there's fewer people, the terrain may be challenging," explains Wigfield. "So, the costs tend to be high and some of them may have some service, but it may be very slow that just doesn't meet modern needs; and others just may not have it at all."

In Oregon, the carriers working on the expansion are CenturyLink and Frontier Communications. Between the two companies, they're eligible to receive almost $22 million in Connect America funding, but they have to meet installation deadlines in order to access the money.

It's more than a matter of convenience for small-town residents to have good online access. It also makes a difference for economic development, whether businesses will start or stay in an area.

Wigfield says the FCC is well aware of the rural disadvantages.

"Nearly half of rural America lacks access to modern broadband at this point and so, this program is an effort to try to close that urban/rural digital divide, to a technology that has just become pretty essential to daily life," says Wigfield.

Some cities and counties, tired of waiting, have expressed interest in setting up their own fiberoptic networks but Wigfield says so far, that idea has been held up by groups lobbying on behalf of the large communications providers.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR