Nov 18, 2012

STILL WAITING

In 8th grade I asked my parents if we could get "the internet". At the time AOL was littering the sidewalks with free trials to dial up, and I desperately wanted a way to access my HTML from home. Mom tells me now that she rolled her eyes and thought "doesn't he already have enough computer games?"

Somewhere around twenty million people in the US are without internet service according to the FCC, and it's not just World of Warcraft they're missing out on. This morning the Huffington Post published a lengthy and detailed account of the difficulties rural America is facing in receiving broadband. A few notable excerpts: 

To win over regulators, AT&T promised to offer broadband Internet to all residents in its combined territory, with at least 30 percent of wired Internet deployment -- known as DSL -- rolled out to rural or low-income communities. Low-income customers would also receive $10 Internet service.
The goal of commitment was “to provide at least some basic Internet service to rural areas,” Martin said.
But some former FCC commissioners and industry experts say merger conditions often contain loopholes that by themselves achieve little in expanding access to the Internet in rural areas. 
AT&T’s promise “relies on a definition of broadband that does not nearly put our country on par with our global competitors,” then-FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, adding that the deal "would have been substantially improved by the inclusion of more specific, quantifiable, and enforceable commitments for rural and low-income consumers." 

Civic responsibility and corporate profitability are unfortunately at odds here, with rural residents left to wait for a resolution. Unfortunately, this issue is less about people with established online connections looking to live outside the urban centers, and more about residents already in rural areas being left behind. Jobs and businesses aren't just relying on the internet, they are increasingly dependent on it, and as job listings move online residents without a reliable web connection are unable to find or discover work. Traditional and brand new kinds of jobs are being created online or in maintaining communications infrastructure, but without a push that supersedes profitability, they won't make it to rural workers.