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Report: Slow Internet Access "Cripples" Rural TN Economies

April 27, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Many Americans are used to fast Internet connections, but it's still slow going in rural pockets of Tennessee.

Even the effort to speed things up has slowed down. The state now ranks 19th in the country for broadband speed - or fast speed Internet - down from 14th two years ago. That's hurting the state's economy, according to a new report on broadband access.

Rural communities without broadband access will lose out on opportunities to places with high-speed connections, according to the report by the Center for Rural Strategies, a media watchdog group. Dr. Sharon Strover of the University of Texas, who compiled the report, says a company with narrow Internet bandwidth will 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're at a huge disadvantage without broadband."

The report concludes that in a sink-or-swim world, communities without high-speed access will sink. Experts rank the U.S. 29th in the world in communications technology - and slipping.

However, Dr. Strover sees some encouraging signs.

"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, "Scholars' Roundtable: the Effects of Expanding Broadband to Rural Areas," is online at ruralstrategies.org.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - TN