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Report: Slow Going Internet Access "Cripples" Rural Economies



April 27, 2011

STAMPING GROUND, Ky. - A new report about broadband - or high-speed Internet - access in rural America, href="http://www.ruralstrategies.org/sites/all/files/Broadband_Investment.pdf" target="parent">"Scholars' Roundtable: The Effects of Expanding Broadband to Rural Areas", says communities without broadband service could be hobbled economically, losing the race to those with faster connections.

Frank Povah understands that all too well. He's an Australian who moved to Stamping Ground, Ky., population 700. Even though he connects to the Web with a satellite dish and lives only a 20-minute drive from the state capital, he can't get download speeds much better than those on a dial-up phone line.

"I'm paying for one megabyte a second and getting less than a quarter of that speed. By world standards, that's dial-up speed, or just a little better than dial-up."

Povah says farmers in his neck of the woods could streamline and economize their livestock sales if they had broadband access - access he says is faster in his home country than the U.S.

"Farmers in Australia now, they take videos of the cattle in the field, and a buyer miles away in Perth looks at them and says 'OK, I'll give you such-and-such.' Small farmers could do a lot better for themselves if they had decent Internet access."

When Povah moved from Australia to Kentucky, he says he thought he would have Internet service rivaling that anywhere. Instead, he learned, experts rank the U.S. 29th in the world - and slipping - in communications technology.

The new report, issued by the Center for Rural Strategies, a media watchdog group, concludes that in a sink-or-swim world, communities without high-speed access will sink.

Dr. Sharon Strover of the University of Texas put the report together. She points out that companies with narrow Internet bandwidth have difficulty doing even basic daily business functions.

"If you've ever tried to pull up a graphic image on a dial-up connection, you are waiting, conventionally, for a really long time. That means that in order to do something as simple as ordering a part, you are at a huge disadvantage without broadband."

Strover sees some encouraging signs, however.

"I believe that the FCC and other federal agencies are taking this far more seriously than they ever did. The money that the stimulus funding pumped into broadband should help."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to report this year - as it did last year - that broadband providers are not expanding their services in a timely and satisfactory fashion.

The report is available at www.ruralstrategies.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - KY
 

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