Access to high speed internet is essential as services & opportunity via technology grows, but like all utilities difficult to provide in areas of dispersed & isolated populations.
Benefits & Problems Addressed
The information economy: as more features & services migrate to a tech-only platform, the entire population needs access to high speed, reliable internet access.
Economic opportunity: Traditional jobs in rural areas increasingly have a technical component; this means broadband is essential not only for existing jobs but also support services.
Tips & Techniques
Getting started: Determine service clusters and location of unserved populations. Meet with economic development agencies, large institutions (colleges, medical center) and cable/internet companies to determine (1) the feasibility of extending broadband service & (2) the company’s eligibility to apply for loans and grants.
Expanding existing services; Consider approaches to expanding access, where the service already exists (public buildings and plazas). Rural electric utility companies are also expanding into broadband as they see access to internet as a parallel to access to electricity. Irwin Utilities in Irwin TN provides rural broadband. (link to podcast).
Infrastructure supply versus adoption: In some cases broadband is available, but users (particularly the poor & elderly) lack the training and tools to use services.
National Broadband Plan: Federal Communications Commission
Farm Bill Broadband funding from USDA
Cool & Connected Program: US Environmental Protection Agency