Roundup: Digital Divide Not Just Rural

The digital divide • MVP pitcher, small town resident • Filming Beetlejuice • Nation's oldest Halloween parade • Brewing groundwater crisis • Shrimp fraud! • And more...

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Rural areas have lower broadband subscription rates than metropolitan ones overall. But the digital divide – the gap between those with broadband access and those without – is stark in many American cities as well, reports the Financial Times.

It had been thought that the rural make-up of much of the U.S. was the main factor in a national broadband subscription rate that is just 73.4 per cent, behind other developed nations such as the UK and Germany, which have rates of 88 per cent. About 67 per cent of households in rural areas have broadband internet service, compared to 75 per cent of urban households.

But the new Census Bureau statistics show a huge disparity among US cities and towns, with a gap of 65 percentage points between those with the highest and lowest subscription rates.

In other words, cities have both the highest and lowest rates of broadband subscription. It all depends on what part of town you’re in.

A map of Chicago, for example, shows better rates of access in downtown and affluent Lincoln Park areas. But in the west and south, where incomes are much lower on average, the rate of broadband subscription drops precipitously. Cities in distress are faring worse, not surprisingly:

US cities that have become synonymous with urban decay, such as Detroit and Flint in Michigan and Macon in Georgia, have household broadband subscription rates of less than 50 per cent, according to the US Census Bureau data. The median household income in all three is less than $25,000 a year.

The Financial Times analysis says the high cost of broadband subscription is a major factor in the disparity. Rural broadband advocates say cost is part of the rural broadband divide, too.

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The New York Times visits the rural western North Carolina hometown of San Francisco Giants pitcher and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. The reporter talks to Madison’s dad, Kevin, about what it’s like having his son home during the offseason.

During the season, Madison lives in a $5,000-a-month condo rental in San Francisco, with a view of the Bay Bridge. The day after the season ends, he hops a flight to Charlotte, N.C., and drives to Dudley Shoals. He has the farm with eight Black Angus cattle. He goes to Pancho Villa’s Mexican restaurant at least once a week. (He gave them an autographed Gigantes jersey that hangs over the door.)

“Last winter we were at dinner there,” Kevin said, “and someone says, ‘Hey, Madison!’ I figured it was autograph time. Then the guy says, ‘I hear you got a new horse!' “

Alas, the Times can't resist including a quote about how the rural area is not inbred. If the stereotypical comment were about race and not rurality, would the Times have included it? 

Nope.

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When you conjure a mental picture of New England, you’re probably thinking of East Cornith, Vermont. This small town was, at one point, the most photographed in the country. The Saratogian tells of how this beautiful little village was chosen as the setting of one of the all-time best Halloween movies: Beetlejuice

“They used quite a few local people for extras,” said Laura Waterman, a long-time resident. “Some people got a nice little extra income. One day they needed more cows so they got some from a farmer here.”

Polli’s uncle, Maurice Page, had some acting experience so he got a bit speaking part as a character named Ernie, who’s shown polishing lions heads outside the library.

 “He was supposed to play the barber, but he improvised too much and kept changing the lines,” Polli said. “Tim Burton couldn’t deal with that so they let him play Ernie.”

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The town of Hiawatha, Kansas, is celebrating its 100th anniversary with this week with an annual gathering called the Hiawatha Halloween Frolic. The frolic is considered the nation’s oldest Halloween parade. This year’s celebration will also feature fireworks, a costume contest, a puppet show and a marching band.

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The world’s driest areas could be approaching a groundwater crisis, according to a new piece by James Famiglietti, a scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"Those aquifers are in the dry parts of the world — that's why we rely on them," Famiglietti said. "Because of climate change, those dry areas of the world are getting drier, so there will be less replenishment of an already limited resource."

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A Mother Jones article will not make fans of wild-caught shrimp happy. They look at a recent study in which researchers sampled shrimp from areas across the country and found that 30% of the shrimp products were mislabeled.

They found the most deception in New York City, where 43 percent of the samples from supermarkets and restaurants proved to be misleadingly labeled. Of those, more than half were "farmed whiteleg shrimp disguised as wild-caught shrimp." … D.C. shrimp eaters have also have cause for doubt about what's being served them: Supermarkets there showed better than in ones in New York, but nearly half of shrimp samples from D.C. restaurants turned up mislabeled.

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Jason Gray, a Daily Yonder contributor, uses an op-ed in the Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer to point out three issues that must be addressed before rural North Carolina can move forward economically: North Carolina has a huge rural population (second largest in the country in raw population); areas are recovering slower than the general slow recovery of the state as a whole, and rural areas need to do more investing in themselves. 

 

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