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Digital Age Is Slow to Arrive in Rural America

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Digital Age Is Slow to Arrive in Rural America


BY Kim Severson and Meggan Haller The New York Times

February 17, 2011



COFFEEVILLE, Ala. — "After a couple of days in this part of rural Alabama, it is hard to complain about a dropped iPhone call or a Cee Lo video that takes a few seconds too long to load.


Here in Coffeeville, the only computer many students ever touch is at the high school.


“I’m missing a whole lot,” said Justin Bell, 17. “I know that.”


As the world embraces its digital age — two billion people now use the Internet regularly — the line delineating two Americas has become more broadly drawn. There are those who have reliable, fast access to the Internet, and those, like about half of the 27,867 people here in Clarke County, who do not.


In rural America, only 60 percent of households use broadband Internet service, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Commerce. That is 10 percent less than urban households. Over all, 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all.


The report was developed in conjunction with a national broadband map that was also released Thursday, as part of a billion-dollar effort to improve Internet access in the United States, particularly in rural areas.


Pushing America’s digital expansion is a point of emphasis for President Obama, who on Thursday night held a private meeting with Silicon Valley’s elite, including Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Carol Bartz, president and chief executive of Yahoo. His administration has given $7.2 billion in stimulus money toward the effort, including the map, which took five years and $200 million to develop and shows a number of discrepancies in the quality and availability of broadband access between rural and urban communities.


“This is like electricity was,” said Brian Depew, an assistant director of the Center for Rural Affairs, a nonprofit research group in Lyons, Neb. “This is a critical utility.”


“You often hear people talk about broadband from a business development perspective, but it’s much more significant than that,” Mr. Depew added. “This is about whether rural communities are going to participate in our democratic society. If you don’t have effective broadband, you are cut out of things that are really core to who we are as a country.”


Affordable broadband service through hard wiring and or cellular phone coverage could revolutionize life in rural parts of the country. People could pay bills, shop and visit doctors online. They could work from home and take college classes."



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Yeah sadly



But hey it beats a blank, also look at the size of the US. When we first got a computer & dial up (2003/4-ish) it took like 20 minutes to download a 3-4MB song, now it's like less than 20 seconds and to me that's blazing fast. I still envy wherever FIOS is available though, I can't lie, streaming videos and other data intensive stuff can be annoying at times.


O_O @ Japan.

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FiOS has a good chunk of customers on the East Coast, but keep in mind most ISPs elsewhere in the United States don't really have high capacity lines and exist simply as the dominant force in whatever regional market they serve, and keep lines slow because they know if their customers cancel, they are **** out of luck.


Hell, Cablevision has better internet than most other non-Verizon ISPs, and even on wireless I'm still good.


I remember laughing at Verizon when DSL was the next best thing 8-10 years ago. That's when Cablevision was at its peak.

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the USA is a much larger country than the european countries, its much more difficult to put in a large scale broadband service to everywhere


Great point. Even back say a century ago, when telephone was then the new way to communicate, the big cities in the US got it first. It would not be until the 1930's/'40's before the entire country including 'rural' America had phone service.

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