One of the most frustrating things that I have to deal as a blogger and website admin is that I live in a place where access to broadband is extremely limited. I used to have satellite, but the Fair Access Policy is so restrictive that the service did was not appropriate for my level of use. These days I can also get Invis-A-Link, which is something I’m looking into. Right now I use my cell phone and hope for the best in terms of a signal.
Rural broadband is as important today as rural electrification was 75 years ago. Since Michigan has a large rural community, “about 52 percent of Michigan communities have access rated below the FCC minimum standard,” and Michigan is 30th in the nation in terms of online access speed. What does that mean in practical terms? For one, online retailers cannot penetrate the rural communities the way they can the urban communities. Just like the brick and mortar stores, an online store takes longer for a rural customer to get to. It’s also harder for rural residents to find employment online, because a lot of data entry and transcription services require a minimum of a DSL connection into the home. And since many companies are moving primarily to the Internet to conduct business, the rural resident sometimes end up with “convenience fees” for the privilege of conducting a transaction with a phone call or a paper check.
A group called the Internet Innovation Alliance has a state by state guide on broadband access. The page on Michigan is here. They also have a cool infographic that identifies the top 10 benefits of broadband to rural communities:
1. Links Local Businesses to Global Markets
2. Allows Consumers to Tap Into E-Commerce Savings
3. Expands Access to Educational Opportunities
4. Increases Local Job Growth
5. Connects Patients to World Class Health Care and Reduces Care Costs
6. Enhances Economic Options for Younger Generations
7. Provides New Tools for Farmers and Ranchers to Grow Their Businesses
8. Enables Entrepreneurs to Locate Their Businesses Locally
9. Attracts Customers to Local Businesses
10. Offers Families Low Cost Options to Stay in Touch Using the Latest Technology
Aside from the benefits of rural broadband, there are negative effects to not providing 100% access. The Center for Rural Strategies has a pdf (click here to download) that underscores the importance of this technology, and discusses how disadvantageous a lack of broadband can be for rural communities. The Communications Workers of America also found that Michigan’s internet speeds were significantly slower than speeds in other developed nations. (click here to download the pdf). Basically, we were pwned by Germany, Japan, Sweden, and South Korea.
The Center for Rural Strategies states that communities without fast, reliable, mobile broadband will be “economically crippled.” This is one area where Michigan needs to step it up. Over half of the state does not even meet the FCC’s minimum standard … personally I think this is because of the SBC / Mike Nofs Michigan Telecommunications Act … but that’s a post for another day.
Rural, wireless, mobile broadband will support and encourage more employment opportunities, more small business innovation, and more economic vitality. Without this, we are at a sever disadvantage. Michigan needs to invest in this infrastructure. Imagine how attractive this state would be with 100% wireless broadband access.
I’m just sayin.