Rural Areas: from dialup to fiber?

I’m just going to apologize in advance for the fact that I have so much news to report this weekend. Part of it is me catching up after being out of town – part of it is a lot happening.

The Daily Yonder had another nice article on the state of Internet access and use in rural areas specifically on why people don’t use broadband, based on their location.

Here’s the root of it from their article:

Nationwide, nine percent of all adults, however, use dial-up services, and when Pew’s John Horrigan examined why these Internet users avoided broadband, he found large differences in the responses of urban, suburban and rural residents.

Of those using dial-up in cities, 36% said they wouldn’t switch to broadband because of price, but only 3% said they didn’t have fast Internet connection because it wasn’t available.

Among suburban dial-up users, 37% said cost kept them from adopting broadband; 11% said the service wasn’t available.

In rural communities, however, 30% of dial-up users said they wouldn’t use broadband because of price, and 24% said broadband wasn’t available where they lived.

Yesterday I got to listen to Danna MacKenzie from Cook County (for those outside MN, that borders Canada and Lake Superior – it’s *beautiful* and remote). She recounted the early days of trying to explain Internet to a community that had no access. I remember those days – trying to show people the web through screenshots. God love the people with imagination who decided maybe it was worth pursuing after those “demonstrations”.

Well I think the same thing is happening with broadband. How do you explain broadband to some who doesn’t have it? We’re beyond saying – it’s faster. The applications are there where you can do more – but you need to have access to get it or you need to have experienced access (or have a great imagination) to want it. Rural areas have imagination but not the firsthand experience of broadband.

So I think a follow up question is – so do we try to get them any kind of better access? Or do we shoot for the moon and strive for fiber in rural areas? This came up in yesterday’s meeting too.

I just read an article on Broadband over Power Lines, which is so intriguing to me because we need more power and we need more broadband. And as broadband deployment does increase we’re going to need even more power. So why not find a way to do both. The down side is that BPL does not offer ultra high-speed broadband – just broadband. Going that route would be an improvement – but are we just upgrading the unserved to the underserved of tomorrow? And is there a way or even is it desirable to leapfrog to ultra high speed?

I think Geoff Daily would say yes. At the same meeting as where I heard Danna, Geoff Daily advocated for 100Mbps everywhere. That would be great. I don’t know if it’s realistic but I think it’s good to aim high.

The big money question is – how do we do it?

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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