No broadband in Rural America? Really?

I was surfing this morning a tripped over this article from The Center for Rural Affairs. The headline states “More than half of all rural Americans lack fast, reliable broadband internet connections.”

Here’s the link:

http://kmuw.org/post/more-farmers-logging-internet

It talks about how more and more farmers are getting on line and then bemoans the fact they can’t get high speed internet. While I certainly agree that more and more farms are connecting, I could not disagree more with the the connectivity issue.

To state my case, I will speak from experience. I live in rural South Dakota. The population density in my county is under five persons per square mile. Considering about 40% of that population lives in the county seat, it makes things pretty quiet out here. My township population density is about two persons per square mile.

I not only have broadband connectivity, I have five choices for providers (six, if you want to include my smart phone as a mobile hot-spot). This is for a guy who lives 16 miles from the closest town (population 108).

My current provider (Northern Wireless Communications) uses an ingenious system of towers, roof top antennas and up-links to provide me 15Mbps + service. My land-line phone company (Venture Communications Cooperative) also has high speed internet through a recently installed fiber optic network. I have three additional satellite choices Hughesnet, Dish and DirecTV). There might be more. I am only aware of these because of their advertising.

So, to say rural America does not have access to high speed internet is not taking into account all the options. Many of the studies I have seen on this subject only consider hard wired (or fiber) connections. They do not include satellite communications.

Be careful with these blanket assumptions. My friend Ben Winchester of the University of of Minnesota Extension, coined a term, “Anecdata”. Here’s the definition as best as I can remember it, “Information which is presented as if it is the result of serious research, but which is actually based purely on what someone believes is true.”

There are a good many of these anecdotal untruths around us today and rural America having no access to broadband is simply another one.

Rick Skorupski is a writer and author living in Northeast South Dakota.

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Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 9:08 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Hey, Rick, thanks for the article. I can tell you that other parts of the country are vastly different. We live in Middle TN, south of Nashville. There are low hills that impede direct on ground broadband in many areas of the county. People who live in relatively flat country have less issues with this. In the particular place where I live, we can not even use an antenna to get TV but we do now live in a small town where we can get broadband through cable. The plans have little competition and quality (they always claim to have adequate broadband, but reality often does not match the claims). Rural areas do have access to Hughesnet but the service is very, very spotty– meaning that the access to usage of broadband is compared to in town cable hook ups is very poor and startup costs are huge barriers. Dishnet requires a separate connection to the internet and unless things have changed recently, this means something just over dialup (ISDN) which never really worked as advertised (again, the competition thing).

    One solution to all of this poor rural service is for all who are are in the game of providing high speed internet be required to service ALL of the citizens in the county or state, not just cherry picking high density areas to make a killing. Companies do not want to do this this, of course, becuase it hurts their bottom line. They will, however, use utility poles at little or no cost to cover their high density areas.

    The rural electrification push of the New Deal era was great, but it needs to be applied to broadband (ISDN IS NOT broadband) and claims of companies need to carefully be looked at to determine if this is being accomplished. When a company gives broadband to one person in the census area and then can claim all in the census area have available service, IT IS NOT ALWAYS THE TRUTH.

    I am happy you have found adequate broadband, but it does not take away from the fact that broadband in the country is often not available under the same quality and terms as the cherry picked areas.


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