Broadband changes lives. So who is responsible to making sure we all have access?

Yesterday I read about Verizon cutting off a lot of power users. Ars Technica reports

Verizon Wireless said it is disconnecting a small group of customers who use vast amounts of data in rural areas where Verizon relies on roaming agreements with smaller network operators.

“Earlier this month we notified a small group of customers who are out of contract and primarily use mobile data on other wireless companies’ networks that we won’t be their service provider after July 30, 2017,” a Verizon spokesperson told Ars today. “This only affects a few people who primarily roam on other networks and does not affect customers who primarily use Verizon’s own network.”

The customers who are affected “are using vast amounts of data—some as much as a terabyte or more a month—outside of our network footprint,” the company said. Verizon gave the customers several weeks’ notice so they have time to port their numbers to new providers. Verizon provided no option to switch to different plans.

Why did Verizon do it? They’re losing money. I run a different kind of business – but I know you can’t keep customers who cost you money. (Yes, I mean you – who asked me to explain why your printer quit working after I built your website!) Should they have kept them on as a public good? Maybe or maybe not. I don’t even want to know the details because my question isn’t is OK for Verizon to cut them loose.

My question is – who is responsible for making sure they have an option?

I had been thinking about that when Craig Settles’ article (from the Daily Yonder) came across my desk. Craig makes the point that broadband isn’t just about doing things faster – it’s about doing new things. He’s uses stories of 3D printers used to bring jobs to rural areas (And arms – “Reynolds uses the Chattanooga Library’s 3D printer to build prosthetics for his son as he grows.”) and telemedicine to help folks recover from strokes.

These are some of the power users. Are we willing to pull the plug of opportunity for them? And if we’re not, again – who is responsible for making sure they have an option?

I think it’s going to take a village of parties to help raise the bar on broadband but Settle’s article offered one solution that I’ve seen work here Minnesota – the perspective of the cooperative to provide for their community…

“You have to challenge the old way of thinking,” says Mike Burrow, CEO of NineStar Connect, an Indiana broadband provider formed by an electric co-op and a telephone co-op.

“We did not look ourselves as an electric co-op. We look at ourselves as a solution provider for our local community, an infrastructure provider. If it enables our community to stay connected and provides vital services that help our community survive and thrive, that’s what we were involved in.”

Cooperatives seem to be a leader in bringing broadband to areas where it’s toughest to make a business case.

This entry was posted in Rural, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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