I live ten miles from Cornell University and .6 miles from a wired connection to high-speed. In 2011, wanting to utilize my recent Communications degree from the Park School at Ithaca College, I realized I was doomed without high-speed Internet.
I decided that I would drill down and find out what stood between our home and that wired connection, .6 miles down the road. I thought a blog would be a good vehicle for recording my findings.
I began locally: what did our local cable company really mean by a “survey to see how much we would have to pay for a connection? what was the franchise agreement with our local government? and why wasn’t the state and federal government helping me get connected under the rural broadband initiative?”
Day by day, I dug through the Internet and made phone calls to get the answers to these questions. It wasn’t pretty: a survey was a peek around the neighborhood by the cable company; the franchise agreement was drawn up in the 1980s before Al Gore and others made Internet a household word; and the state and federal government were sort of helping.
In detail, I recorded this information on my blog. The blog itself did not see millions of hits but it got around and the hits increased over 100 percent in one years time. It was tweeted in Great Britain and on Topsy once, a South African said I had guts. I think there he was referring to all the things I explored and questions I asked.
I researched and dug: why did our cable company wire 50 miles in Maine for the same price as 12 miles in upstate? why isn’t there a comprehensive plan to connect the country? and really what is the problem: is it that we can’t put the collective brains in the US together to solve this problem or is that the invisible hand of the free market keeps pushing the heads of those trying under water as they keep rising to the surface to gasp for air.
In the end, I found assistance through the Tompkins County Legislature’s Special Committee on Broadband. A group of people researched the issues and made applying for grants through government broadband initiatives doable. But unless a community has the drive to do such work, the average citizen faces the daily hassles that I recorded in my blog. (The committee’s report is online and could be very useful to other communities seeking solutions to rural broadband.)
As the quest fur rural broadband goes forward, I think of a point one of my professors used to ask us repeatedly at Ithaca College:
“Why, you’ve got to ask the questions? And they have to be the right questions?”