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Report: Slow Internet Harmful to MI Rural Economies

May 2, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Internet speeds available in Michigan are among the slowest in the country: ranked 30th, according to SpeedMatters.org. That's bad news for rural communities, says a new report by the Center for Rural Strategies.

The report concerning broadband access in rural America says communities without it will be economically crippled, because they'll likely lose out on opportunities available to those with high-speed connections. And 52 percent of Michigan communities have access rated below the FCC "minimum standard." Report author Dr. Sharon Strover explains that the simple act of ordering a part can put a business with narrow Internet bandwidth behind the eight-ball.

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

The media watchdog group report concludes that in a sink-or-swim world, communities without high-speed access will sink. Michigan's rank as 30th in the nation for online access speeds is a potential black mark on a state that is marketing itself as a leader in high-tech manufacturing. The 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.

However, Dr. Strover says there are 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 media watchdog group report concludes that in a sink-or-swim world, communities without high-speed access will sink. Michigan's rank as 30th in the nation for online access speeds is a potential black mark on a state that is marketing itself as a leader in high-tech manufacturing. The 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 available at www.ruralstrategies.org

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI