Who knew that the divide between those who can access digital content and those who can’t would be between the city and the country. Usually, it’s between the rich and the poor, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to high speed access. There are, fortunately, ways for those in the city and the suburbs to go online, such as public libraries. In so many rural places, however, there are no full broadband providers and no accessible outlets.
I live 47 minutes drive from a major software manufacturer, 52 minutes from a major metropolitan area, 10 minutes from a suburban development. Yet, because I live on a farm, I have no access to VoIP, VPN, or video streaming. YouTube and Skype are mere fantasies out here. There is no cable, no DSL, no wireless broadband…only bad dialup and expensive satellite. (Who has $1,000 to install a satellite system?) I’m writing this entry with a speed of 11 Mbps on satellite (and it took me years to scrape that installation money together), which is still better than the 21K maximum I could get via dial-up. (Yes, even the phone lines here are antiquated.) Half an hour per email message is just a bit excessive, I think.
I have a number of neighbors who have become so completely disenchanted with lack of access to the internet, that they’ve given up. They might do their accounting on their computer (and maybe play spider solitaire of an evening), but that’s it. The cost of technology in the country can easily overwhelm a rural budget. Where a city or suburban dweller can have broadband, phone, and cable for around $90, someone in the country must pay much more. There’s $70 for satellite internet, $80 for satellite television,
$30 for basic phone service, and additional charges for long distance. (My cell phone won’t work in the house because the signal is too weak and I refuse to wander in the rain in order to save some pennies.)
Essentially, those who live in the country must pay twice as much for less service than those in more urbanized areas. We need, once again, an initiative such as Rural Free Delivery by the U.S. post office in 1896 or the national phone system by Bell several decades later. There are potential technologies out there (http://wireless.fcc.gov/outreach/index.htm?job=broadband_home) but many are still years away.