Tuesday Roundup: Secret of a Good Life

Prisons and rural development • Dating on the farm • Rural wireless access: Good luck • House forms new telecom group. 

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As a teenager, journalist Rod Dreher couldn’t wait to get out of his small town in southern Louisiana. Years later, when his sister faced a fatal cancer diagnosis, he came to see a different side of the place he grew up. He moved home and has written a book about his experience.

Dreher, his book (The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life) and the people of his southern Louisiana community are featured in an NPR report by Debbie Elliott.

Dreher’s book tells how his hometown gathered around his sister and her family when they needed it most. He says that during the tough times, the community connections were like a levee that held strong against dangerous waters.

Elliott’s reporting does a good job of examining the complexities of living in a small town, where confines can also bring immeasurable comfort.

Prison Progress II. Prisons don’t bring prosperity to rural communities, argues Sylvia Ryerson in an op/ed in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. The piece is based on the research she included in her “Speak Your Piece” article a few months back.

Low-Tech Dating. In the age of Internet dating, Singles in Agriculture takes a decidedly low-tech approach.

Members meet through state and regional chapters that have three to six get-togethers throughout the year, according to an Associated Press article. Activities include square dancing, bowling and cards; no cussing, drinking or smoking allowed.

As the number of farmers has dropped, the dating scene had declined, especially for farmers middle-aged and older.

While not specifically a dating service, many members of Singles in Agriculture say they’ve found partners through the organization.

Dam Data. A researcher for the data testing firm OpenSignal isn’t impressed with the wireless signals he finds in rural America. Gabe Scelta says most of his work testing 3G and 4G signals for a commercial report is focusing on metro areas. But he’s tried a few rural localities as well, like Hoover Dam on the border of Nevada and Arizona. There he found wildly variable access among the carriers. AT&T customers, for example, are “up the Colorado River without a paddle.”

Scelta’s interest in rural wireless access is more than academic. He says Internet connectivity in his small hometown in New York state started him on a path toward college:

I know first hand that access to the Internet provides substantially increased economic opportunities. As a tech-inclined high school student in Stanfordville, NY (current pop. 2,246), I could not get online fast enough–and at the time we were talking a dial-up modem with Prodigy. It’s humbling to realize that in the absence of that singular connectivity, slow as it was, I would not have had 95% of the opportunities that I did, including the biggest kickstarter of income elevators, a college education.

House Rural Telecom Group. The House of Representatives has formed a bi-partisan rural telecom working group to look at the communication needs of rural America. Co-founders and co-chairs of the working group are Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio).  The group will have 18 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The group says it’s concerned about “rural call completion” and the auction of broadcast spectrum. 

 

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