The Truth Behind the Broadband Stimulus Argument

September 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm (broadband, Dial up, DSL) (, , , , )

In my last post, I discussed an article that proposed that the government has a duty to provide broadband Internet to rural areas. Here are the reasons leading up to this conclusion—but this time we’re looking at the whole picture. This information is based on my knowledge as a technician for an Internet provider and my extensive research on the subject.

More and more people are using the Internet. Yes, this is very true. In fact, the U.S. is nearly saturated with Internet services and one of the leading countries with broadband access. The growth of Internet usage just within the last five years is staggering, with many people signing up for more Internet access daily.

The Internet is becoming a larger venue for business and education. The majority of businesses have websites, and many of them take and ship orders online. Online college classes are still being taken with people getting degrees later in life. Private education for grade-school ages are offering online courses. The Internet provides a vast, no, gargantuan collection of educational information that was once contained only in books and libraries. Read my post about “necessities” that have been replaced by the Internet and technology. The Internet has, in a very short time-span, transformed our language, social habits, culture, and communication. Its actually kind of overwhelming to think about. And the advancements and changes not slowing down one bit!

People who do not have access to the Internet lack the ability to gain from these advancements. Quite true! It would be foolish to deny this. But how many people truly have NO access to the Internet? There are MANY ways to access the Internet:

  • Home/relative/friend’s house

  • School/Work

  • Library/Coffee shops/other Public areas

  • Cell phones/any area with a wireless hotspot

  • ANY home/building with a land line phone (dial-up)

  • ANY home/building with a clear view of the Southern sky (satellite)

Granted, there are some people who have many more options than others. I am not denying that there are “underserved” U.S. residents. I am saying that it would be foolish to assume that just because many people can’t get common types of broadband in their home doesn’t mean that a) they have no access to the Internet elsewhere, or that b) they don’t have any form of Internet access in their home, or that c) people without Internet access in their homes must have it in their homes in order to become educated and conduct business.

Most people do have some form of Internet access even if it isn’t broadband or isn’t provided directly to their home. Those that have no access any type of Internet services whatsoever are a very small percentage of U.S. residents. The number of businesses in this situation is even smaller.

Many Internet and phone companies have essentially given up on being able to afford providing broadband to certain areas. There are some places, like my house, where they don’t bother to install cable or DSL lines for obvious reasons.

  1. The cost of installing the equipment necessary to provide these services to scattered rural homes would be enormous.
  2. The income from rural customers willing to order the service would never pay the costs of installation.

  3. Even if they did bother to run all these lines, etc., we are too far away from the source of the digital provider for a strong enough signal to reach our house.

These companies are not being petty losers. It’s just really not within reason. There are many more complications that would take more time to explain (and perhaps I will post about  it later). The stimulus money will help, but it’s not going to solve our problems alone. We’re going to need even more money–and probably several years if we really want to provide affordable broadband to all the rural and low-income areas. There’s a long road ahead of this ambitious venture.

In the next few days I’d like to wrap up this discussion. Stay tuned! And feel free to comment! I’d love to hear from you!

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