BACKWOODS INTERNET TECHNOLOGY STILL A DREAM - Information Super Highway A Sluggish Road

(07/05/2004)

By Bob Weaver

Federal Communications Commission's chairman Michael Powell says varying terrain, sparse population and lack of demand has hindered the spread of high-speed Internet service to rural America.

Federal officials continue to release statements and announce initiatives that would bring high-speed internet service to rural America.

So far, there have been sparse results. Rural America is in the lag, much like rural areas still lack basic infrastructure most American's have taken for granted for a generation.

Powell believes it will be easier than the expansion of telephone service, which required the same lines everywhere, because an array of connections can reach the Internet.

Powell wants broad band service to reach rural America, he says.

President Bush said this spring he wants every American to have affordable access to broad band by 2007.

Many rural areas, such as Appalachia, lag behind the rest of the country. The commission covers parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and all of West Virginia. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced last year it would partner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in expanding telecommunications and high-speed Internet availability in the Appalachian Region.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope announced in 2003 that the ARC would work with the FCC in identifying distressed areas where low-income households would qualify for the FCC’s Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up America outreach programs.

“The FCC has a long and proud commitment to the people of rural America, and I am confident that, working together, we can do even more to speed our region toward full access to the twenty-first-century economy,” Pope said.

“This is just the first of what we hope will be many productive partnerships to coordinate and leverage our investments with other agencies working to connect Appalachia.”

The newest technology being studied is the transmission of internet service on electric lines, which could be a method to link rural America to the net. The technology requires the insertion of a small box in electric outlets.

Meanwhile, the theory and the promise of economic development provided by the internet to backwoods West Virginia is still a dream.

Some government studies touted the increase of broadband in rural communities, at least a provider. That access is often limited to a small area with customers paying $40 to $50 for DSL.

Meanwhile, federal courts are ruling in favor of availability of local radio service, since the FCC has been allowing large corporations to take over communications in regional markets.


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