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The Internet Networking United States Businesses

The US Rural Broadband Crisis 586

Posted by Zonk
from the last-ten-miles dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Rural US residents don't have the same kind of access to broadband services as those who live in urban or suburban areas. According to the federal government, just 17% of rural U.S. households subscribe to broadband service. But the problem is more than a conflict between Wall Street and small-town residents wanting to surf the 'Net or play Warcraft — the lack of broadband access prevents many businesses from growing and diversifying rural economies, as it's expensive or impossible to get broadband. From the article: 'Soon after moving to Gilsum, N.H. (population 811), [Kim] Rossey learned that he couldn't get broadband to support his Web programming business, TooCoolWebs. DSL wasn't available, and the local cable service provider wasn't interested in extending the cabling for its broadband service the three-tenths of a mile required to reach Rossey's house — even if he paid the full $7,000 cost. Rossey ended up signing a two-year, $450-per-month contract for a T1 line that delivers 1.44Mbit/sec. of bandwidth. He pays 10 times more than the cable provider would have charged and receives one quarter of the bandwidth.' The author also notes that larger businesses are being crimped, from a national call center to a national retailer which claims 17% of its store locations can't get broadband."
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The US Rural Broadband Crisis

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  • by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:48AM (#20383947) Journal
    Sucks, but seriously, do a little research before you move, if your business depends on it. Just reeks of irresponsibility. (Not to say not having broadband at 100% penetration doesn't suck, but I'm not gonna cry a river cause you didn't do your research ahead of time ... )
    • by glop (181086) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:59AM (#20384121)
      I have moderation points at the moment and thought of rating you as a troll. But I thought better of it and will just state a few points that you seem to have missed :
        1) the guy has solved the problem by shelling some money.
        2) the money he is paying is only 100$ more than my commute costs. And I guess his house is much bigger and cheaper than anything I could find in NY. So he probably was wise to pay that price.
        3) he offered to pay all the connnection costs for the cable company and they refused.

      So, I really can relate to this guy and think he really is the good guy here.

      • by pthor1231 (885423)

        2) the money he is paying is only 100$ more than my commute costs. And I guess his house is much bigger and cheaper than anything I could find in NY. So he probably was wise to pay that price.

        If house space is that important to you, then gtfo of NY. You obviously realize the tradeoff between living in a high pop area, and subsequently having many more community type things available to you, and living in a low pop area and the associated benefits and drawbacks. The guy from the article should have reali

        • by c_forq (924234) <forquerc+slash@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:31AM (#20384565)
          The key is should of. From my experience living in a rural area I can almost guarantee if/when he called the ISP a receptionist stated "Of course we offer internet packages alongside our TV offerings". Though unlikely, it is possible the receptionist would look at a coverage map, see the address is pretty close to where they have some cable, and state "It looks like we could probably have you hooked up". But unfortunately the receptionist is not the company, and has no input on where cables get extended to. In my experience it takes about a month to figure out why you can't get what you want to get from rural ISPs.
          • by schnell (163007) <me@sch n e l l . net> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:01PM (#20385143) Homepage

            In my experience it takes about a month to figure out why you can't get what you want to get from rural ISPs.

            What I'm surprised by here is that it seems like everybody thinks that broadband = cable or DSL (or, God help you, a Point To Point T1). From reading the comments, nobody is even looking at rural wireless satellite broadband. Disclaimer: I used to work for a satellite ISP so I'm biased. Satellite especially is available anywhere you can see the southern sky (specifically, a satellite hovering 22,300 miles above the equator in geosynchronous orbit) and offers OK speeds for $200 - $600 upfront and anywhere between $50 and $200 per month. The latency sucks (600 ms) but if you aren't using it for gaming, then you certainly don't need a private line circuit with PTP or Frame Relay...

            I was always amazed that so few people knew about or considered satellite broadband despite the millions of bucks a year that HughesNet throws at advertising, especially on DirecTV. WildBlue now also has big co-marketing programs with DirecTV, DISH Network and AT&T. So I'm curious - do people not know about satellite or do they know and just don't want it?

            • by michrech (468134) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:26PM (#20385631)

              I was always amazed that so few people knew about or considered satellite broadband despite the millions of bucks a year that HughesNet throws at advertising, especially on DirecTV. WildBlue now also has big co-marketing programs with DirecTV, DISH Network and AT&T. So I'm curious - do people not know about satellite or do they know and just don't want it?
              I can tell you *exactly* why satellite doesn't have more "penetration" than DSL/Cable. You answered it in your own statement. Up. Front. Cost.

              People in America (I've seen myself fitting into this mold) are used to "sign this contract, we'll considerably reduce/eliminate the upfront cost". For the most part, you don't get this with satellite. I know you didn't when I had Starband living in Yarrow, MO (population, about a dozen or so). I had to pay something like $400 up front (or so, it was quite expensive for what little I was making at the time).

              People are spoiled by the phone/cable companies "giving" the modem to you. The satellite equipment is just too expensive. Add to that the *required* non-free (most of the time, 'less there is a promotion) installation.

              For stores (like TWE, that was linked from the main article), satellite would work, if the Mall they are located in will allow them to have it installed on the roof. I have a feeling many malls won't, and some just aren't built for it (multi-story, etc -- the cables would probably just be too long, adding MORE cost for amplifiers, or whatever is used for long runs..)
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by timbck2 (233967)
                It isn't just about up front cost. It's about the ongoing cost, and the sucky service you get for the cost. Satellite internet service isn't bad for just gaming, it also makes VPN basically impossible.

                I'm speaking here from personal experience. Satellite internet is no better than dial-up.
            • by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:38PM (#20385885)
              Some of us have tried it and found that it SUCKS. Latency is 600ms AT BEST. In practice, it's worse. It's also slow, and inconsistent. It a connection of last resort. Since the guy's BUSINESS is the Internet, it's a non-option. $450/month for a T1 is a VERY reasonable and realistic price to pay for something your business depends on. As I said in another comment, that $450/month enables him to make $10K+/month (if he is competent.) Without it, he makes $0. He also gets to write off 100% of the cost, so in reality it doesn't cost quite that much. Like power, heating / cooling, space, advertising, equipment and software, it's a cost of doing business.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by TemporalBeing (803363)

              What I'm surprised by here is that it seems like everybody thinks that broadband = cable or DSL (or, God help you, a Point To Point T1). From reading the comments, nobody is even looking at rural wireless satellite broadband.

              Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Satellite has historically been tied to a dial-up modem as well. It wasn't until a few years back (2001?) that bi-directional sat-comms were even allowed for the home (FCC regulation); and it has taken a few years after that for the

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ElectricRook (264648)

              I've been happy with wild blue.

              I used to pay $15 for a second phone line, and another $17 for dial-up ISP.

              So I found wild blue, and for $15 more than I was paying, I get ~80K down, ~700mS ping...

              STOP LAUGHING... It's three times faster than the 28.8K dial-up I was getting on a good day.

              Now I can hook up the wireless router, and the kids have two computers, and I can surf from my easy chair.

              Yes I have friends who get 250K for $20, but I no longer have police helicopters flying over-head telling me to get in

          • by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:27PM (#20385653)

            The key is should of.

            No, the key is should HAVE.</pedantic>
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            As someone who lives in the great state of NH I can easily say: Welcome to NH, b*tch.

            I can say that at least half of my co-workers live in areas where they just can't get cable or DSL because the lines end X thousand feet from their house.

            This isn't an Uncommon problem here and the local Cable provider that offers cable internet to most of the state (Metrocast [metrocast.net]) is very good at telling you exactly where service is and where service isn't. Go on ahead and check their website for youself... plug in Gilsu
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by i.r.id10t (595143)
          Yup, before I closed on my house (bought in early 2000) I took a laptop out and tested the phone lines to see if 56k was possible... (it wasn't but a drunk destroyed the Big Box down the road and I had 56k for a few weeks after that, at which point DSL was available... who said drunk drivers aren't good for *anything*)

          Don't think it would've affected my closing, but I may have kept looking for just a bit longer.
      • by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:30AM (#20384557)
        I agree, but also want to point out some other facts here...

        Now he has a T1 so he can get plenty of static IP's without massive surcharges, he has upstream bandwidth that is better than most people can get outside of FIOS, He won't run into the "we will cut you off for exceeding our unpublished and secret cap" problem, and he has an SLA on the circuit. He uses the internet for his business, and the internet IS his business. A T1 is quite reasonable. Unless he is underpricing himself, he is probably making at LEAST $10K / month off that $500 T1.

        Just to keep things in perspective...

    • by mortonda (5175) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:04AM (#20384199)
      In many rural areas, wireless broadband is making inroads. Find the nearest neighbor that *can* get cable, and set up a wireless bridge to them. If there's a few people around you, set up a good access point and resell it.

      I know, some cable plans don't like that... but on the other hand, it's not like they were planning to sell it to those folks anyway. Also, in my area, you can pay for "enterprise cable" service which is very reasonable, and they won't complain about what you run on it.
      • by krgallagher (743575) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:21AM (#20384451) Homepage
        I have a lot of family living in rural areas. They are all using wireless internet (read internet via cell phone.) It is not the best, but it blows dial up out of the water, and at $49.00 a month it beats any other high speed option.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by garcia (6573)
        In many rural areas, wireless broadband is making inroads.

        In many rural areas (NW Iowa and Eastern SD) are my most recent surprising experience) they have EDGE data networks (I-Wireless and/or Cingular) that I have absolutely rocking speeds on (compared to metro areas like MSP) in the middle of farm fields.

        It never ceases to amaze me when I'm in the middle of farm land [lazylightning.org] on a minimum maintenance road in rural South Dakota [google.com] that I have full data service.

        Why not try tethering or a PCMCIA data card? If you can'
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:14AM (#20384333) Homepage

      Well... a couple of things. First, most ISPs won't actually give you a real map of where there coverage is. It's really sketchy. Sometimes you can't even tell until you go to order the service. I remember doing a check a few years ago where I entered my address into Verizon's online thing, and it said I could get DSL. Then I tried ordering it, and they said that the website was wrong.

      Second, if you RTFA (or even the summary), the guy bought a house three-tenths of a mile outside the broadband coverage. So basically that means that they guy down the street could get broadband and he couldn't. It's pretty understandable why he wouldn't catch this ahead of time.

    • by btarval (874919) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:42AM (#20384765)
      Well, yes, one always should do one's research beforehand. But that's like only seeing the tree in front of you, and missing the entire forest.

      The basic problem here, and throughout the U.S., is that the so-called "last mile" lines are tightly controlled by the local monopoly, and closed off almost completely to any competition. When you don't have competition, you have no incentive to offer better service.

      The only way we'll ever see either wider deployment, or 100 Mbs to the house in the next 10 years, is if the Telephone companies are divested of the Central Offices. That is, these are spun off into businesses which sell the lines to competing companies. Only then will you have motivation to upgrade the last mile with better services and speeds.

      What I find amusing is that there's always someone who will say "but there won't be any interest in upgrading the rural areas". They always fail to realize that there is no interest right now, and isn't any on the horizon.

      If you make this market truly competitive, then there will be interest. Now, granted the price will necessarily be higher, and that's where the main objection from people living out in the rural area comes from. But at least there will be service for a price. And that's what is needed to get the infrastructure ball rolling to deploy better solutions than just a T1 (which really looks rather pathetic these days).

      It's also amusing that America is facing internation pressure on this front (while doing nothing about it). Other countries are deploying high-speed internet (100+ Mbs), while the best we've got being rolled out is a pathetic 6 Mbps.

      Silicon Valley in particular is extremely lacking here.

      Unless this is changed, and soon, there will be a lot of other countries which are in a better position to compete than the U.S.. The next 10 years will be interesting.

    • Bigger ISSUE!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xzvf (924443) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:42AM (#20384773)
      The issue is broadband is becoming required infrastructure for business and rural areas don't have it. Areas of the country with less population density now have reliable power, roads and telephone service because the infrastructure was universally built out. Because of programs like the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) that electrified rural areas and the Interstate Highway system and regulation in industries like railroads and telephones, factories can reasonably be located in rural areas. Recent census data indicates urban and suburban areas are growing faster that rural areas which could be an indication that urban job growth is drawing people in. The question we have to ask ourselves as a nation, is do we want to return to a situation where production is centered on large urban areas or make the investment in infrastructure to make rural areas viable.
    • by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:06PM (#20385231) Journal
      I moved to a rural locations about a year ago. Before moving I gave the address and set up an appointment with time warner to install the road runner service. The guy came out a week after I moved in and couldn't find the cable lines to the house. Evidently it had never been hooked up at this address but was in their database for coverage. SO i Figure good, they will run another cable the 200 yards from the drop at one of the neighbors house. No, they didn't do that. Instead the sent an engineering guy out who surveyed the property and did some study and sent me a letter 2 weeks after that saying it wasn't financially feasible to connect me to the network. I couldn't get specifics of what stopped them just that they wouldn't make money from it.

      Fortunately, I can get a 3 meg DSL connection that seems to do a little better at times so I wasn't too disappointed outside not having the Internet for almost 2 months after being told it would be hooked up a week after my move. My neighbor on one (about 200 yards away) side can get road runner and on the other side (about 6-700 yards away) uses satellite but there is a $1500 installation fee in my area that needs to be paid before you get the service.

      Checking this stuff out first might not always work. AS for the article, I'm sure there would be something available cheaper then $450 a month but there is a need to service these areas. Time Warner and the Telco's offering DSL or Internet are doing so because they had all the competition blocked while they were setting up their networks and running the infrastructure. They have an unrepairable advantage over any startup that might want to service the area and would likely use this advantage to undercut pricing models and run the other companies out of business if there ever did turn out to be a market worth having (profitable).
    • by JWW (79176) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @01:00PM (#20386269)
      This is true, but the fact that businesses basically get held up at gunpoint for T1 lines with a fraction of the bandwidth at 10x the price that residential users can get is unconscionable.

      I personally believe that the greed of the phone companies with respect to T1 pricing is at the very core of why the US is losing (and losing badly) on the bandwidth front with respect to the rest of the world. We are getting worse broadband, at higher prices than EVERYONE else in the WORLD. Sometime in the next decade this is going to technologically cripple the US and we will lose the rest (we've lost a lot already) of the leadership we have in the internet. The next google, youtube, myspace, etc. may well have incredible multimedia potential and come from another country, and be unusable by most of the people in the US. Eventually, the world will make use of their expanded bandwidth, and will leave us behind.

      And its all because the telcos were addicted to their premium prices they've always charged for T1 lines....
  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:49AM (#20383953) Homepage Journal
    They don't have hookers either. OMG!! A hooker crisis! They probably don't have a decent symphony orchestra either. An orchestra crisis! Sorry, not meaning to flame, but this is what it means to live in rural America. You have elbow room, privacy, lots of fresh air, and cheap housing costs. In return, you do without some things.

    As population density drops outside of metropolitan areas, it's impossible for telecommunications companies or cable service providers to justify the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile it can cost to bring fiber to every rural community, let alone every home.
    It's easy to make a superficial comparison with other countries - particularly European - who have higher population densities. I'd like to see a study in which the figures for broadband access were weighted for density.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scarblac (122480)

      This has nothing to do with density, after all he proposed to pay the entire cost of expanding the cable by himself. They just can't be bothered.

      The problem is that to get good service for anything, you either need real competition between several commercial parties, or serious government investment in infrastructure. It seems that rural parts of the US lack both. Also, barriers to entry for new competitors are huge, and large government investment would probably mean raising taxes and the people always vo

    • by epee1221 (873140)

      In return, you do without some things.
      Would you say the same if this were about phone service? How about water? Electricity?
      • by mbradshawlong (919651) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:12AM (#20384309)

        Would you say the same if this were about phone service? How about water? Electricity?
        Many rural residences don't have water service either. They install their own wells with electric pumps for their water needs. My parents who live in rural Minnesota only recently received cable and broadband internet and will likely never have "town" water.
    • by chill (34294) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:15AM (#20384357) Journal
      It's easy to make a superficial comparison with other countries - particularly European - who have higher population densities. I'd like to see a study in which the figures for broadband access were weighted for density.

      While definitions of "broadband" may vary, you may find that availability of a DSL or cable connection is on par between Western Europe and Big City America, levels are different.

      You can get 100 Mbps connection in Sweden and a few other European countries for what a 5 Mbps one costs in the U.S. Want it weighted by population density? Fine. Pick a big U.S. city -- any one. Just ignore the rural part and compare it to Europe on a country-by-country basis, including their suburban and rural parts.

      I used to think like you do, that it was population density that curtailed U.S. broadband in comparison to places like Korea and Europe. Then someone pointed out that U.S. broadband is crappy-to-mediocre in the largest U.S. cities with high population densities. What is the excuse for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington D.C.?
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:14PM (#20385387)
        In my experience, Europe, in particularly the Scandinavian countries, and the US sell connections differently. In the US you usually don't get as high a signaling rate. 10-12mbps is generally the max you get. However, the rate you pay for is one that is properly supported by upstream. Your 6mb DSL will get 6mb to any site that can support it. The Scandinavian countries offer much faster pipes to your house, but don't back that up further up the chain. It's a big WAN in effect. You'll get great transfers to anyone on that ISP (at least on that ISP in your country) but you get much slower transfers to the rest of the world.

        Now maybe that's changed, but if it has I certainly don't see it in my experience.

        Also, for what it's worth as a given datapoint. Speedtest.net shows North America as having the fastest aggregate connections, above Europe. Of course there's problems with the way a test like that works, but it does indicate that perhaps the rest of the world isn't as blazing fast as people on Slashdot like ot make it out.
      • For starts... (Score:3, Informative)

        by C10H14N2 (640033)
        To equal the density of Paris, you would have to cram the entire 3.8M population of Los Angeles (city) into the 68 square miles of Washington, DC--on top of the existing 600,000 people--and you'd still be short by a quarter million. To equal Seoul, you'd have to take the entire populations of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles and shove them onto Manhattan.
      • by symbolset (646467)

        At this point I have to believe somebody is paying you guys to present these density and last mile arguments.

        In sleepy little towns less than pop. 5000 across rural washington you can get fiber to the premises and 100mbps service for less than $40/mo.

        The problem is that the incumbent monopolies are milking the market for far more than they should be able to get away with. That is the only reason. All of these logistic and practical reasons are nothing but industry propaganda. I post this in every broad

    • by pla (258480) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:18AM (#20384411) Journal
      It's easy to make a superficial comparison with other countries - particularly European - who have higher population densities. I'd like to see a study in which the figures for broadband access were weighted for density.

      New England (and this article refer to NH) does have a population density, including distribution of urban-vs-rural areas, comparable to Western Europe.

      Face it, "We're number 17!". Broadband availability in the US sucks, and the mono/duopolist providers have no interest in improving coverage (quite the opposite, they've actively fought changes in the way they can report availability statistics that would paint a more accurate picture).
      • Western Europe's population density varies a great deal. Obviously, there is some average value, but there are rural areas, where you can't get a fast Internet connection. I only know the situation here in Germany. It's the same thing - it would cost telcos too much to get DSL there, so they don't do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mobby_6kl (668092)
        New Hampshire (as well as Vermont and Maine) doesn't have anywhere near the population density of western Europe. NH is roughly three times smaller than the Czech Republic, but has eight times less people. Even if you take New England as a whole, its population density is 2.6 times lower than that of Germany. Sure, we aren't talking about Alaska levels of vacuum, but the overall density is just barely comparable.

        230.9 per km2 for Gemany [wikipedia.org], 87.7 for New England [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hal2814 (725639)
      "They don't have hookers either. OMG!! A hooker crisis!"

      This isn't an entirely valid analogy. If you remember from the summary...

      "According to the federal government, just 17% of rural U.S. households subscribe to broadband service." (emphasis mine)

      That doesn't mean that everyone who has access to broadband subscribes to it. A better analogy would be that only 18% of people in rural areas using hookers means there's a hooker crisis. A lot of slashdotters just can't wrap their minds around the idea that s
    • Fixed Wireless (Score:3, Informative)

      by aclarke (307017)
      I haven't found anything worth modding up yet so I'll just post. Here's my personal anecdotal evidence which of course isn't worth much.

      I live in rural Ontario, Canada on a farm. I'm 4 miles from the nearest town of ~600 people and about a 15 minute drive from a 45,000 person town (Woodstock, ON if you care). I have fixed wireless available to me which operates on a 900MHz band. The whole general area is blanketed by the service, in some cases even by more than one provider. Sure it cost a few hundr
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jc42 (318812)
        I live in rural Ontario, Canada on a farm. ... it's maybe $70/month when you factor everything in, but for that price I have a nominal 3Mbps/512kbps connection with a static IP, and no bandwidth caps or restrictions.

        Well, I live in a fairly densely populated suburb of Boston, and the best we can do here for a static IP and no restrictions is $100 a month for a speakeasy DSL line that delivers 1.5/320 MB.

        We actually have several providers, but once Verizon succeeds at persuading the FCC to "deregulate" us, s
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:49AM (#20383963) Homepage
    I'm not sure just what part of the world "rural" people don't understand, but out here in the boonies (and I live on an isolated island in Alaska - that's rural) we don't have LOTS of thinks. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wal-Mart, traffic jams, low prices.

    We do happen to have relatively good Internet via cable (1 mb) but you can't take anything for granted. Yes, the big, evil Telcos don't want to put stuff out here because it costs a lot. And yes, they should be soundly trashed because it was already "paid" for.

    A crisis? Oh well. Caveat Emptor.

  • Surprise? (Score:2, Informative)

    by mh1997 (1065630)

    Soon after moving to Gilsum, N.H. (population 811), [Kim] Rossey learned that he couldn't get broadband to support his Web programming business, TooCoolWebs.

    He couldn't check the web to see if broadband was available? 18 months ago, I moved from a large city to rural Indiana (town population - 500) and guess what, I knew that broadband was not available because I checked before moving. Sure, I pay through the teeth (comparatively) for satellite (which sucks), but it wasn't a surprise that my home woul

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by too2late (958532)
      The problem with Verizon and other large Telco's is they don't even know if they offer services in your area or not. My experience is you call them to find out if it is available and most of the time they will tell you it is available and then after you move into your new house and call them up to sign up, then they tell you it isn't available. By that time you're screwed of course. I live in a semi-rural area (about 10 miles away from a city with pop. 65,000) and my choices are severely limited. What is av
  • by Cade144 (553696) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:50AM (#20383985) Homepage
    Seems like this is a great argument in favor of municipalities building their own fiber infrastructure like they do with roads, sewers and the like.
    Or, like electricity, people could for a Co-Op and get their own broadband.
    • by MrMunkey (1039894) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:58AM (#20384089) Homepage
      I grew up in rural North Dakota. Our small town (population about 500) has the Northwest Communication Cooperative http://www.nccray.com/ [nccray.com] They provide phone/dialup/DSL/cableTV access. The co-op seems to have worked fairly well back home. I don't know if that's not normal or not... I just grew up with it there.
    • by Albanach (527650)
      British Telecom in the UK found a good solution to this problem. They simply created a site for folk to register if they wanted broadband. Once the number of folk reached the point that upgrading the excahnge became viable they rolled out ADSL.

      Of course they've now upgraded all their exchanges, event he most rural ones because current ADSL technology means it can be provided economically to 20-30 households.
      • by nomadic (141991)
        British Telecom in the UK found a good solution to this problem

        The Brits don't really have the same kind of "rural", though, so I think its a lot easier for the UK to do that then it would be here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Right. I really don't know why people fail to categorize the Internet as "infrastructure". Roads, bridges, sewers, water, electricity, and the Internet are all the same sort of thing.

      Sure, you think of the Internet as a bit of a luxury, but I bet running water and paved roads were considered a luxury once. Individuals, private businesses, and governmental organizations are all relying on the Internet on a daily basis. It seems like this sort of infrastructure should either be public or heavily regulate

  • by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:51AM (#20383989) Journal
    Rural folks can get a quasi-Broadband connection from Satellite Internet providers, assuming they can get a shot to the south (and if you're rural enough to not get broadband, you're probably rural enough you can get a satellite to the south...).

    But it's expensive ($80 or more a month), slow (I had it for 2 years, best DL speed I ever got was only 5 times faster than a 28.8 modem), unstable (hard rain = No internet), unsupported (well...okay, they have people on the other end of the line, but they aren't very good, and they can't fix your problem), and high latency (1500 ms ping is quick. VPN doesn't work, and forget about gaming).

    We need a Tennessee Valley Authority-like program to get Rural America on the net.

    • I have a customer I used to do computer support for that lived out in the middle of nowhere because he wanted to raise horses as a hobby. He had the satellite ISP professionally installed by the ISP and it worked about as well as a 9600 baud modem with the wrong AT config string... anything would make it go out - weather, phases of the moon, looking at it the wrong way etc. Even when it did work it was dog slow and had TONS of timeouts on all but the most responsive of sites. There is no reason that cabl
  • It's disturbing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ircmaxell (1117387)
    In urban areas we've gotten complacent that broadband is available, and just works. But in reality, the shape of our broadband is sad at best. My experiences are at best unreliable and inconsistant. Not to mention that Wifi access (even for paid subsribers) is limited at best. We really need to get on our horses and make country wide broadband and wifi (to a lesser extend wifi) an imperitive.

    This doesn't even bring up the point of pricing structures of broadband in urban environments. Cable is around $
    • Admittedly, SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and TOS (Terms of Service) are closely related, but that $400 T1 line does give you:

      1) A certain guarantee of performance from that 1.544 Mbps line. Your 10M cable modem, on the other hand, is shared with your neighborhood. (Sort of. DOCSIS is around 30, your cap is 10, still that means you're still fundamentally shared if there are more than 3 users in your neighborhood.)
      2) Probably a block of static IPs instead of DHCP
      3) No "no servers" ban in your TOS
      4)
    • Yes, it makes sense. (Score:5, Informative)

      by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:13AM (#20384325)
      You're not even guaranteed 56kbps on your residential "broadband" line. Hell, you're not even guaranteed it will work AT ALL on any given day. When you pay for a T1, what you're paying for is getting every single goddamned one of the 1.544M bits every second of every day in both directions--and the right to do whatever the hell you want with them.
  • Geeks in Space (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:51AM (#20383995)
    Unless the business has a strict need for high upload speed, why not satellite? My house and my studio are outside the reach of cable and DSL and I've been using Wild Blue's service [wildblue.com] at both locations for about 2 years. My brother's business uses it as well. Granted, costs aren't competitive with DSL or cable at a given bandwidth, but it is a lot less expensive than a $450/month T1. The package I have at my studio is advertised at 1.5Mbps down and 256kbps up. Overall it is just as reliable as the cable connection I had when I lived in the city. Wild Blue and a couple of other providers cover pretty much everywhere in the US, including Gilsum, New Hampshire. I do agree with the point of the article, that rural areas need better service. I wish BPL was available at my studio's location, just for its up/down parity, but isn't quite the dire straits it is made out to be. That is particuarly true if we are talking about 'households' that don't likely need a lot of upload bandwidth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tygt (792974)
      I used satellite (Starband) for 4 years, and in general I got download speeds of 400-800Kbps, which is fine for typical usage. Upload sucked though at about 30-40Kbps (fastish modem speed). Ping times (to google) were typically about 700ms.

      In general it worked fine; I had a home lab to go with my home office, so I never had to upload images to a remote lab for testing purposes. I could check in C text files using CVS reasonably well. Checking out a large source tree however was painful (too many connecti

  • by ednopantz (467288) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:51AM (#20383997)
    It isn't just Rural economies that are affected by this.

    We have a couple of clients in the exurbs who do logistics: mainly deliveries into cities. The warehouses are in the exurbs where land is cheap.

    But they can't get broadband at the warehouses. Remote assistance means "bring the laptop to Panera so I can remote in."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BoberFett (127537)
      So you want cheap land to have all the amenities that expensive land has? I'd love to buy a car at Kia prices that's as good as a Ferrari, but it isn't gonna happen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ednopantz (467288)
        Hey, its your food these guys ship...

        The point being that this isn't just an issue for a couple of hicks in cabins.
  • You can't run cable everywhere.

    If it costs $450 a month for a line, then you have to consider that against the cost of moving to within the coverage area. In some cases, those lines cost a few thousand dollars to lay.
    • "You can't run cable everywhere."

      They said that about electricity and phones too back in the 1910's.

      Now electric and phone penetration is above 98%, and the quality of life for Rural Americans increased dramatically.

      The key? Legislation that allowed Cooperatives to form *and helped them with the startup capital*.

      You're right that it's expensive to lay the initial line, but once laid, upkeep is relatively inexpensive (barring natural disaster), but since Coops aren't trying to make profits (well, be

  • by i7dude (473077) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:54AM (#20384027)
    ...its a luxury not a basic utility.

    rural areas have always suffered from having limited access to luxury items when compared to more densely populated areas. i just don't see the logic in this complaint. i'm not saying its fair...but its nothing new.

    if internet is really more important than living someplace that is sparsely populated then you pay a premium to get what you need...or you move. my in-laws live on a dairy farm and they still drive 45 minutes just to buy groceries.

    dude.
    • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:01AM (#20384151) Homepage

      ...its a luxury not a basic utility.

      Bullshit, this is 2007, not 1997.

    • by Random832 (694525)
      Paying a premium isn't the issue - DSL wasn't available to this guy _at any price_ - he even offered to front the $7K it would have cost them to provide service to his location
  • by Pollux (102520) <speter&tedata,net,eg> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:54AM (#20384029) Journal
    Most rural areas have not been deregulated. Unless the area was a "Bell Holdings Company" (owned by Ma Bell before the company was split), regulations still exist preventing competition in that region. Whoever owns the area has every [legal] right to say no to expansion.

    I wrote an earlier post [slashdot.org] on the subject about the same thing going on in my neck of the woods.
  • $50/month for a good pipe might sound cheap to you, but I don't like shelling out that much for it. And, rural pay tends to be quite a bit lower (at least it is here in Kansas) so not many people have that much extra to shell out just for respectable web browsing. Rural folks (see my parents) aren't as tech saavy so the cost benefit for their low level of anticipated use of broadband doesn't justify the costs. I've been trying to get my parents to ditch the Net Zero account and go BB, but that'll never h
  • Low Cost of Living (Score:2, Informative)

    by JBHarris (890771)
    The main reason I set up my Web-based business in a small town in Rural GA (aside from the fact that it was my hometown many years ago) is that it costs next to nothing to rent a decent sized office. I pay $400/month for rent on what would demand 5 times that in a larger urban or metropolitan area. So I trade off cheap Internet for cheap rent.

    Most places that have any decent population density have cellular service, and most cellular providers offer near-broadband speeds for less than $100/mo for unlimite
  • Ahem (Score:2, Funny)

    by wumpus188 (657540)
    Web programming business [toocoolwebs.net]? Hmm...
  • by Mr_Silver (213637)

    Soon after moving to Gilsum, N.H. (population 811), [Kim] Rossey learned that he couldn't get broadband to support his Web programming business, TooCoolWebs.

    This isn't a fault of rural America or telecoms at all, Mr Rossey failed to adequately research the area before purchasing a property.

    If he depended on the web so much for his company, you would have thought he would at least know what he can and cannot get before signing the contracts and accepting the keys.

  • I used to live in rural Virginia. If you actually lived in town, rather than out in the county, you could get DSL or cable. In fact, the cable Internet access rocked compared to what a lot of people in Northern Virginia have told me about their service! I would frequently get 400-500kb/sec on Adelphia there, with interruptions being rare.

    Obviously, if you want to live 20 miles from the nearest cable or telecom office, you'll have to put up with this. It's the price you pay for having so much space.
    • In Union Hall, VA pop 957, 66 people per square mile density we have 6mbit/512k from the cable co for $45. The local phone exchange is wired for DSL but I am to far to get it.
  • by keraneuology (760918) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:04AM (#20384201) Journal
    Given the extraordinary public subsidies, law exemptions and bypasses given to the telecommunication companies they need to get their butts in gear and make broadband as available as the original POTS networks. The various states are to blame as well - if they had mandated back in the 80s/90s that new subdivisions couldn't be built unless they had provided for gas, electric, water, sewer AND modern communications then we wouldn't have this problem today.

    If AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and ilk refuse to upgrade their rural networks then pull the subsidies and make them compete on their own merits. At the VERY least they would provide WiFi broadband at reasonable rates.

  • I live in a town of 2000 and enjoy 6Mbit DSL (and could get screwed with 3Mbit Cable for $49.99). Now, I don't really consider my town rural (sure, 2000 is small), I consider my family members out on farms rural. A lot of them are getting point to point wireless internet now though. It is pricey compared to DSL and such, but they can get a 3Mbit plan.
  • by Brian Stretch (5304) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:07AM (#20384235)
    CANARIE [canarie.ca] (Canada) has many interesting articles and presentations on cracking the last mile problem. In short: municipalities contract someone to build dark fiber networks to the home, homeowners buy a strand of fiber, and competing service providers plug their electronics into the fiber. There are variations on the theme of course but with a neutral party owning the fiber it makes it very easy for new service providers to set up shop.

    I'd insist that ISPs peer all local traffic at full speed, or at least 100Mbps symmetric, but let competition sort everything else out.
  • Research, yes, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:10AM (#20384275) Homepage
    I live less than 20 miles from Gilsum, and about a mile from a (relatively) major regional ISP [sover.net] with good SDSL. I did my research before moving here. But the crisis isn't someone moving to Gilsum blindly. The crisis is that there are lots of ways that solid broadband access can give advantage to a business. Good broadband is a strong advantage for economic development. So rural areas need to find ways to develop it. It can be profitable, evidently, even for the providers. The highest DSL penetration in the country is claimed by VTel [vermontel.com] in Vermont. Meanwhile the State of Vermont is looking at ways to subsidize extending wireless access to the remotest valleys - with the Republican governor's strong support.

    The crisis is that what's good for business and economic development on the whole is often not taken care of by the incumbent carriers, who have discovered ways to make more profits elsewhere without delivering particularly good or advanced services, just by squeezing customers they already have. It's not that they couldn't make real profits in rural areas, but that they'd have to do some actual work to earn them, rather than just live off the legacy of the networks they've already built.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by k12linux (627320)
      I did my homework when I moved 15 miles out of the city. I called Verizon and they assured me that YES, DSL service is available at the address where I was considering buying. I called back later and ordered it to be installed in the day I would close on the sale and was again told that yes, everything looked fine.

      A couple weeks after I moved and still didn't have DSL I called I was told that sorry, the line conditions to my home prevent it. I later learned this was BS. As I was driving past the switchi
  • Too bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sir_Eptishous (873977)
    This problem would appear to be hampering the economic development of rural areas, specifically in regard to things like call centers or other "warm body" like enterprises that korporate America could take advantage of. The cost of doing business in rural areas would be significantly lower than in metro areas, especially where wages are concerned. Commute times and quality of life would factor in also. Why aren't our rural areas leveraged for their labor?

    You would think that rural economic development
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:13AM (#20384315) Homepage
    AT&T was founded on Theodore Vail's vision of "universal service." There were good and bad things about Ma Bell, but one good thing about it was that it united the nation with a uniform, uniformly priced, highly reliable service.

    Exactly the same thing is true of the post office. It costs the postal service more to mail a letter to Alaska than to mail it across town, but the price of the stamp is 41 cents.

    Universal service is only possible if the service provider is allowed to cross-subsidize the areas that are expensive to service with revenues from the areas that are cheap to service. Competition and the free market will always produce wildly varying prices and cream-skimming (in which the most profitable markets get service from multiple suppliers and the least profitable get no service at all).

    If the Internet is now as fundamentally important as the telephone or the postal service, then--just as with the interstate highway system, or the system of air traffic control which enables airline service to be nationwide--there will need to be national policy to that effect. Otherwise it won't happen.

  • So What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:15AM (#20384355)
    Where I grew up (Mojave Desert) there was a Beach Access Crisis. It was far harder for us to enjoy water activities than those people in urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the smog and traffic in LA was hideous. In California, we have better access to fresh fruit and vegetables than people in many parts of the country.

    Broadband is not "unavailable", it is merely more expensive. Wherever you live, some things will be more available and others will be less available. Get over it. The fees that were (stupidly, I believe) tacked on to all phone bills to fund rural access are still there - just a big pot of cash that the telco's squabble over even though routing phone service to rural areas is no longer a real issue.

    Whenever I hear talk of rural access fees, I wonder why the same people aren't championing an urban affordibility fee. Tacking a huge additional fee onto transfer and property taxes in rural areas to help fund the ability to live in San Francisco or Silicon Valley makes about as much (non)sense.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:42AM (#20384763) Homepage
    I'm in the same situation. I was originally going to move the 56Kb line out to the new house in the country and host my webserver there. Sure, it would cost a lot per month (same as his T) but that's the price of doing business. Then I got a sweetheart deal from my local ISP: help in exchange for hosting, plus a 384Kb frame relay line to my house. That was great for a few years, but it wasn't costing them any less, and when they quit using frame relay, they had to drop my home connection.

    No cable on our road; too far out for DSL. I had used dialup, but I'd rather choke myself to death with a hampster. Tried satellite, but interactive use over a satellite is like shooting yourself in the foot, day after day. Finally found a local business which had cable with line of sight. I pay him $20/month rent to host a cablemodem, router, and antenna on the roof. I pay the cableco for a 5MB/512KB business connection, and I'm all set.
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:50AM (#20384963)
    is how many people here on Slashdot would rather have no internet service available than have it subsidized/provided by government. If we met someone who would prefer to have no roads at all over government-operated roads, we'd think "what a moron!" but suddenly if it's the internet, we have to wonder if they have a point.

    I'm largely libertarian (I know, I know, I've surrendered my credentials with this post alone) but some things, like mail service, phone service, water service, and yes, internet, aren't profitable enough on the small scale for the greed factor to make it worth providing service to houses scattered across the prairie, or even in small towns. So we have to choose between no internet at all or cries of encroaching socialism. The question is whether the economic benefits of internet access are enough to warrant the problems caused by government involvement.

    Were the benefits of phone or mail access enough to warrant government involvement? Anyone want to speculate on the economic life of a town with no phone or internet or public roads? The phone system may not have been government-supplied, but they did guarantee the monopoly that made it sufficiently profitable. The distinction isn't that important, in this context.

  • by katorga (623930) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:56AM (#20385053)
    Regardless. Federal taxes have been collected and redistributed to the ISP's to fund rural "information superhighway" infrastructure. Where did the money go? Did the ISP's just steal it and refuse to build the infrastructure? Do we need to recover the funds through taxes on the ISPs themselves? It has been paid for, now it needs to be built.

    Second, internet access in rural areas is a huge boon to job growth in those areas where land is cheap. It is a win for everyone involved. I'd rather "outsource" to rural America than to India.

    Third, huge urban sprawl is an ecological nightmare. The government needs to provide incentives to redistribute populations on a wider geographic basis. Not having access to basic business infrastructure makes this very very hard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Paulrothrock (685079)

      Third, huge urban sprawl is an ecological nightmare. The government needs to provide incentives to redistribute populations on a wider geographic basis. Not having access to basic business infrastructure makes this very very hard.

      I think you're wrong there.

      Most people who live in Manhattan use fewer resources and walk more than people who live in the suburbs. The real problem isn't urban life, but suburban life. By putting everything far away from everything else, you encourage people to drive. And by mak

    • by Renraku (518261) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:10PM (#20387445) Homepage
      That's exactly what happened. They took the money, rolled out broadband for a small percentage of their customers, and the rest went to the shareholders. Now they're bitching that its too expensive to service everyone.

      Those tax breaks are probably paying for someone's yacht right now.

      The government should sue them for the total cost, plus interest, of the breaks/benefits they gave those companies, or some kind of pro-rated amount. Can't pay it? Tough. And no you aren't going to raise rates to make the consumers pay for it.
  • by phorm (591458) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:18PM (#20385465) Journal
    Seriously, one of the towns/villages along my normal work route - population under 1500 - is halfway up a mountain, far enough from the city to be pain to install high-speed, and yet still has internet.

    See here [broadband.gc.ca] for more info. Commercial broadband internet has been available for years, and residential popped in more recently. Here's another town with a population of a little under 3000. [jurock.com] We've got areas that are little more than a smudge on the map that have decent broadband, since both Telus and Shaw cable have a good trunk. On top of that, smaller or more-local providers such as OCIS [ocis.net] provide internet via shared/leased connections (with their own infrastructure added to make the last mile) and other technologies such as wireless etc... without being strangled off by the big guys

    Sorry, but if we Canucks can manage it, the US can too. I'm fairly sure it's a case of piss-poor implementation, support, and just basic greed that keeps it from happening.

    And before people start pointing out that the US has more population to reach, I'd like to point out that Canada has plenty of area, and plenty of open space between locations but still manages to for the most-part get internet out to nowheresville across plenty of long-empty distance and nasty unpleasant environmental conditions (no, we don't have 365 snow here, we go range from as much as +40c/104F in summer to -40C/-40F in winter, so we get it *all*)
  • National Disgrace (Score:3, Insightful)

    by samantha (68231) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @01:59PM (#20387253) Homepage
    Gore was right. The "internet superhighway" is just as if not even more important than the national superhighway system. It should be a national priority to insure high bandwidth broadband everywhere in the country and both wired and wireless. The boon to business, innovation, entertainment, communication, access to information and computational resources makes it more than worth it.
  • by jgoemat (565882) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @03:52PM (#20388971)

    They both crap all over you.

    450-per-month contract for a T1 line that delivers 1.44Mbit/sec. of bandwidth. He pays 10 times more than the cable provider would have charged and receives one quarter of the bandwidth

    Granted, he pays roughly 10 times, if you already have cable and phone through your cable company, and if you don't count the taxes and fees that specifically get added for cable internet. 8mbps cable is $46 / month where I live. What people don't realize is that at 1.544mbps, you actually get the full bandwidth and a stable connection. You have 24 64kbit direct links to your ISP. With cable, everyone's data is transmitted over the cable lines, so you share your bandwidth with everyone on your node. If you happen to be on a node with few subscribers on it, you will get the full 8mbps. More than likely, you will get a MUCH slower connection at least during busy times. Also, a T1 is very reliable, and cable internet is NOT. I tried cable internet twice in two different areas and got rid of it both times due to slow speeds and dropped connections. Eventually it was going out almost every day. I would call tech support and be on the line for 45 minutes while he had me unplug MY COMPUTER. Come on, my computer should have NO EFFECT on whether the little green link light on the cable box is on. You know how many times our T1 has gone down at work over the last three years? ZERO.

    I think the most misleading portion though is claiming 1/4 the bandwidth. The upload speed on cable is actually a MAXIMUM of 512kbps, that used to be 128kbps and might vary from area to are and depending on how active your node is. If you have people using P2P on your node, forget about it. A T1's upload speed is actually three times as much at 1.44mbps. Also with a T1 you have lower latency than with a cable box. Both of these items are important for a web programming business, this guy should be happy with the increased value of a T1 over cable internet. Combine that with the improved reliability (also very important if you're running a business), and I would get the T1 over the Cable even if it was available.

Them as has, gets.

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