Wednesday Roundup: Regulating Broadband, British Style

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British communications regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) has ordered BT, the British telecom provider, to cut wholesale prices for broadband charged in rural areas. 

The BBC reports that BT “has exclusive control of many telephone exchanges and often charges ISPs more in the countryside than in towns and cities. That has led to a lack of competition in some areas, meaning customers often miss out on cheaper deals.”

Over the next two years BT must cut its rates by 12% below inflation each year. The British Countryside Alliance said it was “delighted” by the move. “People living in the countryside have been left behind in the digital divide for far too long and it is vital that they have effective and affordable broadband if their rural economies are to grow and prosper,” said a Countryside Alliance spokesperson.

•The White House has a “Champions of Change” website. They have just put up a page of rural “champions.” You can find them here

• We noted a story the other day about the boom in Amish communities in New York State. Today, there’s news of a tragedy involving New York Amish.

Tuesday a driver tried to pass a farm tractor near Benton, New York, and sideswiped a van carrying 13 Amish farmers. Five of the farmers were killed. The driver of the car that hit the van was arrested on five counts of criminally negligent homicide, including driving while drunk.

There were 14 people in the van. They were part of a Cornell University-organized trip that was aimed at learning farming techniques compatible with Amish culture. 

• Rep. Colin Peterson, the Minnesota Democrat, has offered a plan that he believes would stabilize milk markets for dairy producers.

Hundreds of dairy farmers have been forced out of business as milk prices have plummeted from highs in 2008. 

• Just as new research finds that the presence of fresh food supermarkets has no effect on diets,  First Lady Michelle Obama is off to California today to support a $200 million program called California FreshWorks Fund. 

The goal of the fund is to subsidize the development of supermarkets in areas of the state that don’t have them, so-called “food deserts.” The program is aimed at urban neighborhoods without supermarkets.

The study finding that the presence of supermarkets had no effect on urban food choices discovered that the presence of fast food outlets had a much larger impact on what people ate.

• Farmers in the African country of Burkina Faso thought they had it made. Cotton prices were booming, and they were cotton farmers.

Then, the AP reports, the government and regional cotton monopolies charged the farmers 38% more for fertilizer and paid them as little as 39% of the world price for cotton. 

The lesson, the AP writes, is that higher prices aren’t enough to save farmers. They must also have markets that aren’t dominated by monopolies.

• The Carolina Public Press has a story about a “generation coming back to the farm” in Western North Carolina. They report

“I will predict that in the next (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) census, the number of people that are energized and getting into farming has grown,” said Charlie Jackson, executive director of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, an Asheville-based nonprofit that strives to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food. “There is a generation coming back to the farm.”

• Diette Courrege at Ed Week has an interesting rundown of comments made during the first day of the Southeast Regional Education Summit in Nashville. Here’s a taste:

* There’s a problem with the way we pay rural teachers. We say the cost of living in their community is less, so we pay them less, but that cost of living is determined by the cost of housing, which is substandard. We should set salaries based on what it costs to get them there to teach. —Rachel Tompkins, retired founding president of the Rural School and Community Trust

* My mother still asks me whether I’m sure I want to send my kids to college because she doesn’t want them to move away (afterward). There’s a fundamental paradox; even if we create the best students, many will not come back, and that’s usually a product of where the jobs are. —Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board

* What role will charter schools play in rural communities? Not much. … We have to figure out how to make the schools we want from the schools we have. —Rachel Tompkins, retired founding president of the Rural School and Community Trust

* We can create all the supply we want of highly educated kids, but if there aren’t any jobs, it’ll all be for naught. How do we create an economic development strategy that makes them go back? —Bo Beaulieu, director of the Southern Rural Development Center.

 

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