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life in rural nebraska

More on the Rural Broadband Stimulus Package

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Congress seems to one step closer to a real stimulus package, and we’ll know soon if rural communities can expect an injection into their technology infrastructure.  As we’ve written in the past, many believe (as do I) that increased broadband capacity could be a great equalizer on the competitiveness between rural and urban communities.

Most rural communities lack access to acceptable levels of broadband speeds, not to mention a lack of affordability.  Setting up a new T1 line for small business creeps into the thousands of dollars pretty quickly.  Fiber optics are significantly more pricey as you move away from a central pipeline. Most importantly, upload bandwidth needs to meet an acceptable level of capacity than currently available if communities are to compete in today’s economy.

fiberoptics2

Fast Company reports that President Obama has proposed a $6 billion dollar injection into rural broadband expansion:

The recipients of the administration’s tech-stimulus will be wired and wireless net providers, including cellphone networks…likely to strengthen the nation’s internal social, business and technological ties, and ultimately create jobs and revenue, according to a study prepared for the transition team and published earlier this month.

What’s interesting about the proposal is the desire to make the granting effort open source, or “anyone using a grant to provide improved internet access has to do so in a manner that supports “open source” access by any suitably equipped device, regardless of manufacturer.”

This requirement most like means more open competition for service providers rather than the big legacy providers, such as Verizon, Qwest and AT&T.  With the big telecoms’ reluctance to push for future expansion into rural communities, smaller rural telecos could be positioned to move into the area and provide quality service much like in the 1930’s with expansion of the rural phone companies to provide service.  An opening of the Universal Service Fund, like in the 30’s, could catalyze nimble and quick rural telecos to deploy broadband services at an affordable price and stimulate the economy by creating jobs for rual communities.  Its a win-win to me.

There have been good examples of redundant fiber to the home in the past, with Wabasha, Minnesota fundraising an impressive $3.5 million dollars back in 2006.

There is no reason to think Ord couldn’t pursue this as an option to increase its competitive edge – Wabasha has only 2,600 residents.  Bill Davidson, a Wabasha business owner that manufacturers industrial electronics identifies just how important this opportunity is for Wabasha (emphasis is mine):

“we are seamless to the world,” Davidson said. “We probably have as good a broadband access from our little town as you can get anywhere in the country. It allows someone to live here and have a professional presence on the Internet.

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Written by Caleb

January 29, 2009 at 10:18 pm

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