Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rural Internet Access

When I teased Coturnix, at Science and Politics, about time management and being interested in so many things at the same time, he replied that he writes his blog posts in his head, then takes about 20 minutes to post them. That made me think about what a handicap my modem is. I'm used to it and I take it for granted (like I take hand-washing dishes for granted). But it means my internet reading, not to mention blog writing, probably takes ten times as long as it would with broadband access.

It's not that I'm personally technologically challenged. I was programming with COBOL on a mainframe Univac in the early seventies. Does anyone here remember "do not fold, staple or mutilate" punch cards and 12" reel-to-reel data tapes? And it's not that I'm stupid or stubborn. It's that, in my rural neighborhood, the only high speed access available to me is satellite. And it's simply not worth the price.

I'm affected by the digital divide because I choose to live in the country. I wonder how many of my friends in the "ecology" section of my bookmark list are similarly affected. We may be among the last of the underrepresented minorities.

My Congressman, Sherwood Boehlert (whose Congressional page loads in seven seconds), is on the House Science Committee. I've sent him the following message.

I would like to bring your attention to the problem of internet access in rural New York. In the Town of Dryden, where I am running for Town Board, Time Warner provides broadband access to any area which has twenty or more house per mile. My mile-long road has 17 houses (if you count the subdivision with its own dead-end side road). So, I continue to rely on my modem.

It takes 5 to 15 seconds to load a page of your House website. Clicking on "Contact Your Congressman" on your sidebar takes me to the House Contact page (
http://www.house.gov/writerep/) where I have to look up my representative's name, 'though I already know it's you. After I fill in my name and address and click "continue" I come to the House "Write Your Representative" page (where, incidentally, "useful" has been misspelled since the page was designed years ago.) So, I'm about two minutes into it before I begin to write my message.

In a search of FirstGov for "rural internet access" seven of the first ten articles reference North Carolina, already a leader in rural technology. If I'm having this much trouble in Tompkins County, what must it be like in the Adirondaks? The digital divide is affecting a large number of your constituents, not because we're poor, but because of the population density of our neighborhoods. Perhaps New York could follow North Carolina's lead in making rural internet access a priority.

Following a two minute and fifteen second wait for the New York State homepage to open, a search for "rural internet access" returned no matches at all and I'm way beyond the amount of time I had alloted for blogging this morning.

Cross posted at Five Wells.


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