The River Reporter, July 24, 2013
Electrifying rural America and bringing universal telephone access to its citizens were enormous undertakings in the past century. Now, we who live in rural America face the challenge of building a new telecommunications infrastructure that brings the potential to facilitate economic growth, job creation, and to enhance our way of life in the 21st century. Today, rural Americans including those of us who live in the Upper Delaware River Valley need to join the conversation about how we will get on the high-speed Internet highway via broadband technology or risk being left behind.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) explains the coming challenge to rural communities as new communications technologies, expanding Internet services, online TV and increasing reliance on cell phones (instead of land lines) evolve. “Access to the Internet is an essential infrastructure for any community that cares about economic development, quality of life, and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, most communities are presently dependent on a few unaccountable absentee corporations that act as gatekeepers to the Internet.”(www.ilsr.org/initiatives/broadband/) These big telecommunications corporations care a lot about their many millions of business and residential customers in the cities and suburbs, but frequently give lower priority to less densely populated rural areas, leaving rural communities like ours underserved.
We at The River Reporter believe that without the concerted effort of government leaders, local business associations, school districts, health systems and others working together to bring universal broadband technology to our region, rural residents risk being relegated to some kind of economic dark ages. Very simply, we need to be able to compete with our city and suburban neighbors for jobs and economic development opportunities. Thankfully, the technology already exists that will allow entrepreneurs to live, work and thrive here.
Broadband is high-speed Internet access that is always on, always available. Bandwidth—the width of the band of radio frequencies used, whether broad or narrow—determines the rate at which information can be sent, e.g. whether it takes two seconds or two minutes to download a photo or a document. Broadband, with its wider bandwidth, allows for transmitting much larger amounts of data at higher rates of speed, whether it’s for viewing a movie online in the comfort of your home, for teleconferencing a business meeting, or for taking a college class over the Internet, among many possibilities. [Broadband access is possible through a number of different methods: Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable modem, optical fiber, wireless, satellite or Broadband over Powerlines (BPL).]