Last week the PBS NewsHour broadcast a 10-minute story on the struggles of rural and small-town Internet users trying to get reasonable broadband services in their region. The problem is familiar even to suburban residents here in Dublin, Ohio — carriers look down their noses at developing high-speed broadband services in areas when the projected profits are not high enough to please Wall Street investors (who invariably prefer obscene profits over the comfortable profits of utility operators).
The solution? Develop local and regional broadband services that serve multiple towns and counties and do it without carrier ownership (though carriers do connect these players to the broader Internet upstream). Examples cited include much of western Massachussetts and a farm-focused organization based in rural Minnesota.
While Dublin isn’t exactly rural (anymore), the broadband situation described sounds very familiar: lack of competition, insufficient speed, and inadequate infrastructure investment by the big carriers whenever they sense less-than-stellar profits. Broadband solutions are not flowing from Wall Street, so community investment — in limited partnership with carriers — appears to be the only way to ensure economic growth through resident retention, improved education, increased property values, and more.