Roundup: An ISP Pays for Slow Service

An Internet service provider pays for underperforming • Looking to biomass for heat • The war on wood stoves • What’s that got to do with the price of propane in Oklahoma? • Concern over standardized tests • A shortage of Dems in Texas? • Utah caviar • Rural residency programs for docs in OK • Battling for local post offices in Ireland

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An Internet provider with a virtual monopoly in rural Georgia will pay a $600,000 settlement for charging users for Internet speeds that it did not deliver.

Windstream Communications “will pay $350,000 in civil penalties, administrative fees and expenses,” reports WGCL-TV in Atlanta. “They will also pay $250,000 in restitution, to be used for the purchase of new computer equipment for the Technical College System of Georgia.”

The state investigated Windstream’s promises about Internet speed for two years.

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The high cost of traditional energy like propane has some small New York municipalities looking at “biomass” heating, such as wood-fired boilers.

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Missouri legislators are symbolically fighting proposed EPA regulations designed to reduce emissions from wood-burning stoves. A House committee endorsed a measure that would prohibit state environmental staff from regulating residential wood heaters. The Huffington Post reports:

The EPA’s existing regulations date to 1988 and don’t apply to all of the different kinds of wood-burning devices now in use. Under a proposed rule change released last month, the EPA would give manufacturers five years to meet standards that would reduce emissions by an estimated 80 percent.

The EPA has scheduled a public hearing next Wednesday in Boston, and the sponsor of the Missouri legislation plans to travel there to make his case.

“What they’re doing is unnecessary, and it comes against our American values and our traditions,” said Rep. Tim Remole, a Republican who has a wood stove at his rural Missouri home.

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Corn, cold weather and Japan’s nuclear disaster combined to cause propane prices to skyrocket this winter. KOSU radio and “State Impact” connect the economic dots for Oklahomans – 400,000 of whom heat their homes with propane.

In addition to serving as librarian of the Myrtle, Missouri, Library, Rachel Reynolds Luster is a folklorist, fiddler and community organizer.

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As standardized testing moves online, leaders of some rural schools in southeast Ohio are concerned about the impact the changes will have on their students.

“As a rural district, we’re gearing up to handle this. I don’t have all the technology I’d like, but I have enough to handle it,” said Bruce Kidder, superintendent for Frontier Local Schools. “My problem is that many of my students are at a disadvantage because they don’t have access to technology at home.”

Kidder said he is worried that the lack of access means his students won’t do as well on an online test, particularly when they have never taken it and educators do not even know what it looks like.

“It would be nice if there was a practice PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] to look at,” he said. “We have no idea what it looks like, so we’ll have to learn from it after we’re already taking it.”

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Democrats in some rural Texas counties have to vote Republican to participate in primary elections, because there’s no Democratic Party chairman to oversee primaries, reports Enrique Rangel of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. A new state law is supposed to allow party chairmen from other counties to oversee primaries when a county lacks its own party chairman. “But so far the legislation, which passed unanimously in the House and in the Senate, has not given the results the lawmakers envisioned, especially in West Texas,” Rangel reports.

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More than half of the USDA Rural Development investment in North Dakota went to the oil-boom western counties, reports the Bismarck Tribune. 

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Robert Judd’s caviar business is picking up. He’s producing the luxury item on a small trout farm near Payson, Utah, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

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The Rural Residency Program could be part of the solution to Oklahoma’s doctor shortage, reports News9 television.

The University of Oklahoma Medical School project is based in Ramona, population 564. “We’re one of longest standing rural residency programs in the country right now,” said Dr. Mike Woods, director of the project.

Oklahoma ranks 48th in the nation in access to primary care physicians. Woods said the problem is especially acute in rural areas.

He said 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities, while only nine percent of doctors practice there.

“So we have dire shortage problems,” Woods lamented, “and Oklahoma is one of the worst in the whole country.”

Woods said, in the program’s 15 years, they have put more than a dozen family doctors in small towns. He said he’s chipping away at the problem, one resident at a time.

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Irish postmasters are urging communities to oppose a plan to develop an alternative postal network. “This is a do-or-die campaign and could well be the final battle to save around 600 post offices across the country,’’ said local postmaster Seamus McCarthy, from Gneeveguilla, on the Cork/Kerry border. “If the proposals are allowed go ahead, it will result in mass closure of post offices and will add to the decline of rural villages as yet another important services will be taken away.’’ 

 

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