Thursday Roundup: Civil Rights and Broadband

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Hilary Shelton with the NAACP writes in the Gadsden (Alabama) Times about the link between the civil rights movement and the need for broadband in rural communities. 

We’ll quote from Shelton’s piece at length:

For years, the civil rights community has worked to bridge the persistent “digital divide” that strands a disproportionate number of African-Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities on the wrong side of America’s high-tech future.

We’ve helped advance initiatives to reduce urban neighborhood “redlining” as broadband providers build out their long awaited high-speed upgrades.

We’ve played a crucial role in providing computers and wiring for public schools and libraries.

And, most recently, we’ve worked to develop tech training programs aimed at urging adoption of broadband in communities in which too few Americans are able to take advantage of this vital tool.

Yet even as urban areas are beginning to see real improvement in availability and adoption of broadband, access in our nation’s rural areas remains paltry and at times appears intractable….

This lack of access directly impacts the 4.4 million African- Americans living in rural areas and farms in America.

Imagine raising children in an area where they cannot use the Internet’s vast resources to help with homework. Or consider the billions of dollars in lost economic opportunities that the lack of broadband infrastructure means in depressed rural areas that cannot attract businesses.

Lack of high-speed Internet particularly is harmful for African-American-owned farms and ranches. Just 34 percent of African-American farmers have Internet access, according to the U.S. Census.

That means the vast majority of African-American farmers aren’t able to take advantage of online suppliers that offer better prices on seed, equipment and feed or reaching a global marketplace for their goods. Nor are they taking advantage of countless government services offered online…

The USDA now is considering new rules permitting loans to flow to areas where as many as three broadband providers already serve the same community. This is a step in the wrong direction.

The USDA is authorized to loan more than $300 million in Farm Bill Broadband funds this year alone, and it is crucial that we ensure that the Department prioritize building infrastructure that reaches the millions living in unserved rural areas.

The USDA needs to reform this loan program, refocusing it on serving not areas with existing broadband infrastructure but truly unserved regions.

USDA’s Community Connects infrastructure program, which has successfully provided grants in small communities that have no broadband infrastructure, is a model for how USDA can accurately target these much-needed funds where the impact will be greatest.

Alternatively, USDA could use these funds for programs that aim to increase adoption in areas that already have broadband.

• The New York Times reports today about the changes in representation that will be brought about by the continuing decline in rural population. 

The article is notably devoid of any data. How many rural districts have been lost in any state or in Congress? Nobody has counted, so we don’t really know.

• Food companies promise to cut back on marketing junk to kids, but they will do it on their own terms, not according to guidelines written by the government.

Some food producing biggies (General Mills, ConAgra, Kellogg) will announce their guidelines today.

• Raw material costs dropped in June as inflationary pressures diminished.

Goods prices rose .6 percent in June, mostly because of higher orange and melon prices. Oh, and carbonated soft drinks rose 7.5 percent, but to our mind that’s hardly food. 

Gulf Coast shrimpers say they are being wrongly blamed for a spike in turtle deaths when the real culprit is British Petroleum, according to the New Orleans newspaper. 

Government figures show that the number of sea turtle strandings along the Gulf Coast has risen from fewer than 100 a year since 2002 to nearly 600 last year and 400 so far this year. The shrimpers point out that this was after BP’s oil rig exploded.

Environmental groups are saying shrimpers are partly to blame and they are asking for more restrictions on fishing. 

• Some Harvard scholars, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, say they favor removing obese children from their parents

The National Journal reports: “Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child,” said Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health. The study’s co-author, David Ludwig, says taking away peoples’ children “ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible.”

• The New York Times broke the story last night that American Electric Power (AEP) was calling off plans to build a carbon capture device on to an existing coal-burning power plant in West Virginia. Ken Ward Jr., however, helps in rounding out the story at his Coal Tattoo site. 

AEP had entered into an agreement with the federal government to capture carbon dioxide produced at its power plant in Mason County, West Virginia. Carbon dioxide is one of the substances linked to global warming.

As Congress’s interest in this issue has waned, however, AEP realized that incentives for this kind of work were diminishing. So the company’s interest dwindled, too. Or, as the Times reported: “Congressional inaction on climate change diminished the incentives that had spurred A.E.P. to take the leap.”

 

 

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