Thursday, September 06, 2018

Author is touring rural America for a book to show how it is hurt by lack of broadband; first stop: Staunton, Va.

Many Staunton homes need a satellite dish to stay connected.
(Brookings photo by Mark Williams-Hoelscher)
In rural areas and small towns like Staunton, Virginia (pop. 23,746) the lack of reliable high-speed internet hurts businesses and exacerbates "economic, social and political marginalization" of the poor, the elderly, immigrants and people of color, Nicol Turner-Lee reports for The Brookings Institution. The problem is widespread; of the 55 million Americans who lack broadband access, 14 million live in rural areas.

Turner-Lee, a fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, made Staunton (pronounced "Stanton") the first stop on a 10-city tour in advance of her book Digitally Invisible: How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass, which explores how the lack of broadband hurts rural America and how more flexible and creative public policies and private initiatives can increase access. You can follow her tour on Twitter or Instagram; the book, with extensive photographs, will be released in 2019.

Staunton, Va. (Brookings Institution map)
"This photo essay confirms that rural areas like Staunton are in critical need of high-speed broadband networks for economic and talent development, especially as access to technology has become the lever to avert the expected outcomes of poverty and social isolation, at least for vulnerable populations," Turner-Lee reports. "The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the deployment of broadband nationwide, reports that it would cost $40 billion to bring broadband access to 98 percent of the country. Expanding broadband access to rural areas would be even more expensive, given the vast topography and far proximity from telecommunications facilities."

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