Providing Rural Communities the Broadband Access They Need

The following post is a preview of one I wrote for Broadband for America. I felt honored to be approached to write for them, and am happy to be a part of their mission!

I grew up in rural Illinois. By “rural” I mean, I grew up outside of a town of 3,000 people, in the middle of cornfields. By Illinois standards, that’s a pretty small town. By the standards of the rest of the Midwest, that’s not “that” rural. We were just close enough to the central hub of Chicago to have the amenities of reliable phone service. Our first Internet connection was dial-up, and we only had one phone line. We were only allowed to use the Internet for 30 minutes at a time, in case we missed any calls.

We have come a long way since then.

As my mother sent her chicks out of the roost, and she and my step-father became empty-nesters, they considered moving. In January of 2011, they settled into their new home: a three-bedroom ranch house 10 miles outside of a town of 400 people. Needless to say, a low-density service area such as that is not a priority for Internet providers.

What were their options for Internet? They were limited. However, their jobs and the scattered nature of their family meant that reliable Internet was a priority. They didn’t need a lot of bandwidth, but enough to Skype a few times a month with loved ones, send emails, and check Facebook occasionally. They went with a 5-gig-a-month air card as their Internet provider of choice, as hard line Internet hasn’t reached that remote corner of Illinois just yet. They could survive without Internet, but my mother readily admits that the connectivity would be a huge loss.

Internet isn’t a luxury for all rural dwellers, though. Working in Internet communications as I finish my bachelor’s degree, it’s difficult to go home over break and worry about whether or not my parents’ have enough bandwidth. If it weren’t for the Internet capabilities my smart phone has to offer, I’d be virtually at a loss to continue work from their home. I’m just one instance of the need for reliable and ample connectivity. [To read the rest of this post, please see the full version posted on Broadband for America.]


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