The Fight to Bring High-Speed Internet to Rural America

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Around the world two billion people now regularly use the Internet.  But in rural America, as recently as 2011, only 60 percent of households have internet access.

The nation-wide effort underway to bring internet to all parts of the country is not unlike the effort undertaken by the U.S. Rural Electrification Administration in the late 1930s. But even though federal stimulus programs have poured more than 7 billion dollars into reaching rural areas, at least 19 million Americans still lack high-speed internet access.

One of those communities still trying to get reliable broadband access is Silverton, Colorado.  Jason Wells, is Silverton’s Town Administrator. Brian Depew, Assistant Executive Director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska says the issues Silverton faces aren't unique to that area.

 

Around the world two billion people now regularly use the Internet. But in rural America, a recently as 2011, only 60 percent of households had internet access. 

The nationwide effort underway to bring internet to all parts of the country is not unlike the effort undertaken by the U.S. Rural Electrification Administration in the late 1930s. But even though federal stimulus programs have poured more than 7 billion dollars into reaching rural areas, at least 19 million Americans still lack high-speed internet access.

One of those communities still trying to get reliable broadband access is Silverton, Colorado. Jason Wells is Silverton’s town administrator. Brian Depew, assistant executive director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska says the issues Silverton faces aren't unique to that area.

Depew believes access to the internet is essential regardless of where you reside: "If you look at what internet has become and what it will continue to become…to your ability to engage in civic affairs, to be able to read the newspaper, and contact your elected officials. That is all moving online. And that makes internet a basic utility just like water and electricity are."

As Jason Wells attests, this is a real issue for many rural areas. Despite their efforts, Silverton, Colorado has been fighting for access for 13 years now and still has not succeeded, despite a statewide initiative that was executed to do just that. "We are one of 64 counties in the state of Colorado and yet U.S. Quest Communications failed to complete our build and decided to throw up a couple of microwave towers to get here and I think the reality for them was…there really just wasn’t a market case for them to build here."

"There was not a pot of gold at the end of our rainbow," Wells says.