Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Center for Rural Strategies

"The Center for Rural Strategies manages the partnerships and activities of the National Rural Assembly, a coalition made up of over 400 organizations and individuals from 47 states working at local, regional, and national levels to build more opportunity and better policy for rural communities across the country."

Check it out: The Center for Rural Strategies

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Satellite companies win stimulus funds for "broadband" to rural areas

From August of last year: Satellite companies win stimulus funds | Denver Business Journal:

"Colorado satellite companies WildBlue Communications and EchoStar XI have won nearly $34 million in federal stimulus money to supply satellite Internet access to rural areas....The RUS awards...added a competitive wrinkle for the satellite providers. The RUS awarded $58.7 million to Germantown Md.-based Hughes Network Systems for discounted satellite broadband it can offer unserved rural customers nationwide.That creates the possibility of WildBlue and EchoStar XI facing competition from Hughes for customers wanting services discounted with stimulus funding."

If you have ever used satellite Internet, which is NOT broadband, you will know it is a frustrating technology at best, and no substitute for a wire/cable/fiber connection to the Internet. So handing out close to $100 million to companies that are not wiring rural communities seems like an inappropriate use of funds. Reminds us of when the mobile home manufacturers persuaded the Bureau of Indian Affairs to hand out down payments for mobile homes.

Awesome! Electric cooperative laying fiber Internet lines along its existing electric cables

"The Ralls County Electric Cooperative has nearly completed laying fiber Internet lines along its existing electric cables. In May, it will launch the sales of super-high-speed Internet with 10-megabyte-per-second download speeds.

That company was the first in the state to receive federal stimulus funding for such a project and has been used as a template throughout the region for broadband development." Quincy Herald Whig

Of course, the electric cooperatives are themselves a consequence of the community spirit which informed American politics in the 1930s (c.f. the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act of 1937). Makes for a great "compare and contrast" study. The last time America's economy and people were in deep distress (The Great Depression of the 1930s) the reaction was to let the banks fail and help the people help themselves. Reaction to The Great Recession and Crash that capped the Bush years? Bail out the banks and let the people fend for themselves. Require telecomm companies to serve all Americans equally as we did in the 1930s? Heck no, that's Socialism!

Initiative paves the way for computer literacy in Toledo

Initiative paves the way for computer literacy in Toledo: "the telephone company also is hoping that many of the participants will become paying customers once the two-year free access period ends. But Richardson said increased Internet access is a boon to the community even if people contract with other companies."

Public News Service

Public News Service:

"A new report about broadband access in rural America says communities without it will be economically crippled, losing out on opportunities to those with high-speed connections.

Dr. Sharon Strover of the University of Texas, who compiled the new report, says that with a slow connection even basic daily functions can put a small business at a big disadvantage."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

USDA lends $40 million for rural broadband projects

USDA lends $40 million for rural broadband projects, as reported by MuniWireless:
“Investment in broadband technology will create jobs across the country and expand opportunities for millions of Americans. Broadband provides the opportunity for rural Americans to receive improved educational services, health care, and public safety. These USDA broadband loans provide rural communities the level of financial assistance required to make them full partners in the digital age and keep them competitive on a local, national and global level,” said Vilsack.
This looked like great news until we realized it was $40 million and not $40 billion. The latter number is closer to what is needed, and a fraction of what the federal government lent banks at 0.25% interest in 2009. Of course, the banks used their money to buy bonds, not fund the expansion of rural businesses and job creation.

Friday, April 15, 2011

RUS Broadband Loan Program Victim of Federal Budget Cuts; Politicians appear to be okay with that

Republicans and Democrats make it official: rural Americans are on their own. As they left the capitol, lawmakers from both parties sent an email blast as follows:
Dear Farmers of America,
Sorry, but no broadband for you or your children and schools.
Please keep growing our daily bread.
Thanks...Urban America
Here's the rest of the story:
"As part of a budget compromise reached to prevent a government shutdown, funding for the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) rural broadband loan program has been targeted for cancellation. In March, RUS announced it had begun taking steps to make loans available to support broadband deployment in rural areas across the country through its loan program. RUS was expecting approximately $700 million in program level loan authority which would be secured by $68 million in appropriations authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. The loan authority has now been marked for cancelation by the House Appropriations Committee as part of the recent budget compromise." RUS Broadband Loan Program Victim of Federal Budget Cuts