Newport Fertility CenterA Da Vinci robotic device reverses a tubal ligation in Newport Beach, CA. Robotic surgery holds promise in rural America but won't be possible without high-speed broadband.
A new wide-ranging report on broadband emphasizes that the great technology challenge for rural areas now is to keep pace with Internet transmission speeds.
“Networks that connect research institutions in the United States can move 100,000 times more data per unit of time than the dial-up connections that some Americans,” many of them rural residents, “still must use,” policy expert Hanns Kuttner told a gathering at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.. He stressed, “The technology gap is not a fixed deficit that once filled, stays filled. The technology gap will be larger—much larger—in the future, along with the information and technology gap, unless significant action is taken to overcome it.”
The volume of data coursing through Internet connections – an explosion of imagery and sound as well as computations and text – means that without very high speed connections, rural places will fall further and further behind in manufacturing, agricultural profitability, education, and health care. All of these institutions, economic sectors and services increasingly rely on easy access to large-scale uploads and downloads from the web. And 9.8 million of rural Americans currently lack access to broadband speeds sufficient to handle these new functions.
Spirit AeroSystemsKansas governor Sam Brownback (left) spoke with a worker at Spirit AeroSystems about an airplane part built at the new plant in April. The company came to Chanute in part thanks to the city's high-speed
Chanute, Kansas, two hours from Tulsa, Joplin, and Kansas City, is home to about 9,100 people. As has been true in much of the rural U.S., existing telephone and cable companies were slow to upgrade broadband service here. But local leaders decided broadband was too important to wait for and embarked on a path of self-reliance with smart investments in Internet infrastructure. Using partnerships and careful forethought, a network for Chanute has been built without having to bond or borrow funds.
Chanute’s network actually started in 1984 when the municipal electric utility installed four miles of fiber optic lines to connect a power plant and better manage electricity distribution. Soon, the city also connected the largest consumer of electricity in town, a cement manufacturer, to monitor its electrical demand in real time.
Over the next ten years, city and education leaders realized connectivity would be crucial to the success of the local economy. The school district, Neosho Community College (NCCC), and Chanute’s city leaders talked about the possibilities of an expanded network but were not able to secure funding for new connections in the ‘90s.
Then came 9/11, ultimately leading to tightened homeland security requirements for essential infrastructure. Chanute had to find a way to monitor its utility facilities and identified video surveillance via a broadband network as the best option.