March 4, 2009

The Broadband Hot Potato - WSJ.com

The Broadband Hot Potato - Vermont's ValleyNet Project

Worth a read to understand the difficulty of providing fiber broadband to sparsely populated areas. No mention in the story of the possibility that 4G wireless may be a realistic option. Then again, no one wants to wait for that.

"...The economic stimulus package, which sets aside $7.2 billion for broadband initiatives, could provide a crucial lifeline to municipalities struggling to bring broadband access to millions of Americans who don't have it -- a key initiative of President Barack Obama. The saga of the central Vermont project shows how the financial turmoil has exacerbated the already daunting challenge of reaching the most sparsely populated areas of the country.

From accountants to small-business owners to housewives, the residents of the 22 towns that hired Mr. Nulty are effectively living in the dial-up era. One Tunbridge resident, Kathi Terami, who runs a nonprofit group, keeps a list of things that require a broadband connection -- downloading "Sesame Street" podcasts for her two small children, watching YouTube links sent by her sister -- and goes into town once a week to a library with a high-speed connection. Another, sheep farmer Marian White, pays $60 a month for a satellite Internet service to get a slight boost over dial-up, but says the service is unreliable, especially when it snows and the dish stops receiving a signal. She has perfected a solution.

"I open a window and I take a pan of water and, a cup at a time, I launch warm water at the satellite dish until I have melted all the snow off the dish," Ms. White says. "It works."


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