Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rural weekly newspaper keeps up the pressure on officials to deliver fast Internet service

Sometimes we wonder if rural weekly newspapers are all that interested in bringing broadband to their communities, because newspapers are in competition for readers' time and the coming of broadband brings compelling competition such as video, the fastest growing form of Internet content. But we also believe that rural communities cannot afford to lag behind in the availability and adoption of broadband, and that newspapers should push for broadband access as a fundamental factor in a community's economic development and its quality of life.

One newspaper that has done a bang-up job on broadband is the Todd County Standard of Elkton, Ky., which published a major package of stories and commentary on the need for faster Internet service in 2007. In an editorial this month, the paper said that "despite the best efforts" of the top county official and the county's two state legislators, the county still lacks broadband and is "losing the race toward the future" even though Kentucky leads the nation in funding from the Broadband Inititatives Program of the Department of Agriculture.

The editorial points fingers at the main local phone company, AT&T, and federal policy. "Some experts have complained that one large flaw in President Obama's rural broadband plan is that large companies like AT&T have not sought out the broadband funding since it wouldn't be enough of a profit center." The editorial suggests a stronger federal role, much like the one that brought electricity to rural areas during the Great Depression: "Why don't we have a government that provides the service at a low cost and gives some honest competition to the telephone and cable providers?" It calls on readers to "discuss this with every elected official you know, and let's take our being left off a very large money list as a call to action." (Read more)

Here's the Standard's 2007 package. Click on the images for larger versions.

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