Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Internet Gap

Every once in a while, the Boston Globe comes out with a relevant, well researched and important article on the front page. Today, the stopped clock was right: residents in 32 Massachusetts towns have no access to reliable, high-speed internet. Lacking high-speed internet amounts to more than added stress and being left behind, too.
The report said communities with broadband access experienced an additional 1 to 1.4 percent in their job growth rate between 1998 and 2002. Those communities also saw an added 0.5 to 1.2 percent growth rate in the number of businesses. Housing rents, measured as a proxy for property values, were more than 6 percent higher in 2000 in communities where broadband was available by 1999.

The good news is that people are doing something about it, but way more needs to be done.

Berkshire Connect Inc. and Pioneer Valley Connect are two projects that already bring businesses and institutions together so they can pool resources to buy expensive high-speed lines in places where major providers have no broadband networks. This fall, they will create WiFi hot spots in the towns of Florida, New Salem, and Worthington, with funding from the quasi-public John Adams Innovation Institute. The idea is to use radio transmitters to spread the signal from high-speed lines to create square-mile wireless broadband networks for homes, businesses, and municipal buildings, without the massive investment needed to wire every home.
WiFi seems to be the answer: open, town-wide WiFi would both be cheaper and more efficient than laying down all the wires and paying private rates, but the Verizons of the world are resisting it and it takes a will to bring these kinds of services anywhere. A lot of people, who've never had high-speed internet, don't know what they're missing - but no one should have to wait 5 minutes to load a page and have no access at all to half the internet. The internet is the future and everyone should be invited.


Mr. Lynne said...

Here is an article in Speigel online that talks about the regulatory mechanisms that France used to solve their broadband market penetration problem.

H/T Ezra Klein

Ned Hughes said...

Towns that still have no internet access? Yeah, I can't imagine what that would be like. Even in a lot of the smaller cities in Alaska they have internet access. Of course, the places that don't are somewhere close to Hell.

Anonymous said...

Why not wi-fi for the whole state?

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