Why Are Telecom Companies Blocking Rural America From Getting High-Speed Internet?

Date: 17 Apr 2012 | posted in: Media Coverage, MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The New Republic, April 17, 2012

Located halfway between the state capital of Columbia and the port city of Charleston, Orangeburg County, South Carolina is among the more geographically blessed areas of the country. It’s also one of its poorest. Over a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line, with a per capita income of $17,579….

That’s why, in 2009, Orangeburg County applied for, and received, $18.65 million in stimulus money to finally give the area access to high-speed broadband internet. County Administrator Bill Clark and his colleagues envisioned a municipal, or muni, network that could reach roughly a quarter of Orangeburg’s rural population, including just over three thousand households and one hundred businesses. Such networks are thought to be a good option for vast, sparsely populated rural areas because laying cable across them is a costly proposition, one that’s hard for private companies to justify without a greater guaranteed return than such areas can typically provide. When cities, counties, or public utilities own and operate the networks instead, however, they can provide low-cost, high-quality access to the Internet to their residents. Localities can finance them through a number of avenues, including public-private partnerships or bonds.