Monday, March 10, 2014

Iowa and many of its small towns are examples of a rural America hungry for high-speed Internet

Fifteen million Americans live in areas without fixed broadband networks, according to the Federal Communications Commission, and as more people and companies become reliant upon technology for communication and expansion, the lack of high-speed Internet service will become more of an issue, Christopher Doering writes for the Des Moines Register. 

"There is some work that needs to be done in rural America," said Doug O'Brien, deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture 's Rural Development agency. "There is no doubt that for people in rural America to participate in the 21st-century economy, whether it's a national or international market, they need broadband."

Vinton, Iowa, is one of many small towns facing the realization that adequate broadband is necessary to be competitive.  It has workers, available buildings and small town-charm, but slow Internet. "Vinton has made three attempts to get broadband into every home since 1996, but voters viewed the proposals as too expensive and defeated the efforts," Doering reports. Nathan Hesson, director of Vinton Unlimited, the town's chamber of commerce, said, "The reason it didn't pass was because we didn't have the data to back it up." The town is working on informing citizens about the problem and how the town would benefit from true broadband sevice. (Read more)

The new Farm Bill provides $10 million each year through 2018 to fund the Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program, which could could give excellent broadband to rural cities and towns. The FCC said it will offer $4 billion over the next two years to give 15,000 schools internet access. "The USDA, the Department of Education, and the FCC have set a goal to connect 99 percent of the nation's schools and libraries to broadband by the end of 2018," Doering writes. USDA's Rural Utilities Service will offer $690 million per year to telecom companies wishing to expand broadband infrastructure. "Connect America, part of the larger $8 billion program known as the Universal Service Fund, will receive $4.5 billion annually through 2017," Doering writes. The program's goal is to give every rural resident broadband access by 2020. (Read more)

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