Monday Update: What Good is Rural Broadband?

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New York Times columnist Tom Friedman doesn’t think much of efforts to extend broadband to rural America. 

He writes about how economic growth comes from clusters of smart people located in cities, quoting Blair Levin, who runs the Aspen Institute’s Gig.U project, which represents university communities. That means it’s a waste of money to worry so much about getting broadband to everyone, especially those living in rural America.

Friedman goes on:

Right now, though, notes Levin, America is focused too much on getting “average” bandwidth to the last 5 percent of the country in rural areas, rather than getting “ultra-high-speed” bandwidth to the top 5 percent, in university towns, who will invent the future. By the end of 2012, he adds, South Korea intends to connect every home in the country to the Internet at one gigabit per second. “That would be a tenfold increase from the already blazing national standard, and more than 200 times as fast as the average household setup in the United States,” The Times reported last February.

Therefore, the critical questions for America today have to be how we deploy more ultra-high-speed networks and applications in university towns to invent more high-value-added services and manufactured goods and how we educate more workers to do these jobs — the only way we can maintain a middle class.

If you’d like to read a good counter to Friedman’s argument, see Ann Treacy’s piece here. Treacy is with Blandin on Broadband. 

• Environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote about the opposition to the Keystone XL pipleline (the pipeline that would ship Canadian oil sands oil across the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast). 

McKibben described the “environmental movement” that has opposed the pipeline, but he somehow fails to even mention opposition to the project from Nebraska ranchers. McKibben might note in his next article for The Nation that without opposition from Nebraskans, the pipeline would be permitted by now instead of undergoing more environmental review. 

• Former Nebraska senator and governor Bob Kerrey is thinking about running for the seat being opened by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson. 

Kerrey has been head of the New School in New York City for the last ten years.

 • The L.A. Times has a good summary of the debate taking place within the Food and Drug Administration over antibiotics given to livestock. 

Only 20 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to humans. Most is given to livestock, most of which are perfectly healthy.

The FDA has been zigging and zagging toward limiting the practice for the past 40 years.

• Despite tight budgets, the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs will spend more money on developing digital health records. This is part of the federal governments efforts to bring medical specialties to rural areas, according to an article in the Washington Post. 

• Well, this is odd. Fidel Castro has come out against hydrofracking.

Yes, the former Cuban dictator has been blogging and he says that the drilling technique is a “march into the abyss,” says Foreign Policy

• The number of rural charter schools is increasing, Diette Courrege reports, rising from 207 schools in 2000 to 652 in 2008. 

From Joel Kotkin in Forbes:

Most of the increased product demand lies in commodities like soybeans, corn, barley, rice and cotton. Contrary to the assumptions of East Coast magazines such as The Atlantic, which paint a picture of a devastated and dumb rural America, places like Iowa are doing very well indeed and are likely to continue doing so. Urban economies like Des Moines are also benefiting and expanding into finance and other non-farm related activities. The once massive out-migration from the region has slowed to something like a balance, with increasingly strong in-migration from places like Illinois and California.

 

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