An op-ed piece in the NY Times on Thursday spoke to The Broadband Gap: the urban and suburban bandwidth haves and the rural have nots:
Lack of access deprives too many families, mostly in poorer rural areas, of any chance to use an essential tool for modern life.
While not in a poor area, I am one of those rural have nots and so the piece hits close to home.
In arguing for congressional action, a recent FCC report is cited: “[The F.C.C.] defined broadband as a connection with an upload speed of at least 1 megabit per second and a download speed of at least 4 megabits per second”. The report estimates that 5-8% of Americans do not have that connectivity available to them. The commission believes that “that private companies are unlikely to serve these relatively unprofitable households” and would like authority to “re-deploy the Universal Service Fund, created to bring telephone to hard-to-reach places” and “to reallocate telecommunications spectrum from broadcast TV to mobile broadband service.” (Don’t get me started on TV in the digital age.)
How does my neighborhood–many square miles of 5-acre single family residential zoning–measure up? Not very well. There are pockets nearby within range of a secondary telephone switching station and capable of DSL. Not my house. There is cable TV at the county road about a half mile away, but no interest by Comcast to wire our road and its 12 houses.
And so we have tried the rural connections. Satellite Internet–when the rain doesn’t get you, the latency will. Wave Rider–a line of sight technology which worked for awhile, until the growing trees of others removed the line of sight to a tower six miles south of us. And these days “Sprint Mobile Broadband”, a 3G connection capped at 5 GB of data transfer per month, often throttled, and with frequent resets. Via Speakeasy’s Broadband Speed test just now: .11 Mbps up (11% of the FCC target) and .27 Mbps down (6% of the FCC target). A bargain at $62/month…
No wonder I like to go to work. No wonder I like to go to Whistler. There I have this essential tool of modern life.