The Project, with Details

A few posts ago, I mentioned a thought I was having about exploring the world of rural broadband in the West. That idea has now officially grown legs and is rattling about the house, searching for loose change. It’s time to get crackin’.

The main intention of this project (and it really needs a decent name) is to see how rural broadband is changing the nature of farming, ranching, and small town businesses. Some things to consider are:

  • How is the lack of broadband access holding some communities back?
  • Is there a substantial economic component to having broadband access?
  • Does the nature of farming techniques change with greater connectivity?
  • Is online learning, telecommuting, or social media helping rural economies? 
  • Are small farmers and rural businesses more empowered to influence the political process because of high-speed internet? 
  • Are you able to do more because you are connected? If you aren’t connected, how does that affect you?

In other words, does rural connectivity change the rural experience?

I plan, during the month of June, to travel through the following states: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Oregon. While there, I’d like to interview any small farmers, dairy folk, ranchers, rural high-tech companies, local broadband providers, or rural businesses (especially those who cater to any of the above) to find out how they are using, or can’t use, broadband internet access. I want to do two things from those interviews: create a book and start a podcast series.

If you’d like to be interviewed or if you have any suggestions about a good person to interview, please contact me. My email is I can also be reached at @ruraltechgeek on Twitter or just leave a comment, with your email address, on this blog post. Suggestions for a good project name are always appreciated.

I look forward to postulating many pithy questions…

If Vermont can do it…

…why can’t we? Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont has said Internet access is a necessity, and he has pledged to bring broadband to every last mile of the state by 2013. How can fiber optic companies reach the remotest areas of the state without breaking the bank? They are using draft horses.

Yes, and being successful at it. See Draft horses bring fiber optics to remote locations. They are laying lines in the most remote places and by 2013, everyone in Vermont will have access.

<rant alert> I live less than an hour’s drive from the main Microsoft campus, 52 minutes from downtown Seattle, yet have no broadband available – no cable, no DSL, no cellular wifi. There are no plans for at least the next several years in this state to bring broadband to rural spaces. We’ve been cherry-picked as less-than-desirable by access providers. I almost feel as though farming is a pre-existing condition to them. <end of rant>

A New Project

I’ve had an idea rattling around my head for some time. It’s intrigued, excited, and perplexed me, all at once. I think in the long run, though, I’m going to have to do it.

I want to see what is really going on in the world of rural broadband. I want to learn how people work, play, shop, and become connected (or not) without high-speed internet. I want to talk with those companies and PUDs who are providing broadband and how it is changing the economies of the areas they serve. I want to see the new, high-tech industries that are finding a base in rural spaces, such as Cloud or Disaster Recovery server farms. I just want to see what’s going on out there.

So, what I’m asking everyone is this: can I interview you? Are you a farmer, a rancher, involved in a rural business, or running a high-tech company in a rural space somewhere in the western part of the United States? If so, I’d like to hear from you. 

If I’m good, all this might result in a book. If I’m not so good, I’ll learn some good information. If I’m bad, it’s a good excuse for a road trip.