Ohio Valley ReSource Covers Appalachian Broadband Summit, Quotes Christopher

Ohio Valley ReSource - July 18, 2017

Country Connection: Rural Residents Ask FCC To Improve Internet Access

[Republished in WFPL, WKU - Western Kentucky Radio, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, WKMS Murray State Radio, WEKU FM]

Written by Benny Becker

More than two million people across the Ohio Valley live in areas that lack any option for fast and reliable internet service. This week some of them had a chance to tell a member of the Federal Communications Commission what that means for their work, studies, and everyday life.

The Appalachian Connectivity Summit in Marietta, Ohio, explored possible local solutions. But the event came during a week that also saw large internet providers suing to stop one way to connect more people to broadband service. ...

Net Gains

For more than a decade, Christopher Mitchell has been working on broadband expansion issues with the Minnesota-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Mitchell gave the connectivity summit’s keynote address, and Frontier got a mention in his talk.

Mitchell argued that too much of the federal money intended to expand rural internet access goes to large companies who’ve been building substandard networks. The problem with counting on large companies like Frontier to build rural broadband, Mitchell said, comes down to a question of money and incentives. Urban areas have more customers in a smaller area, which means they’re more appealing to companies that are publicly traded and profit-driven.

More than 2 million Ohio Valley residents lack high speed internet.

As good and capable as Frontier’s employees may be, Mitchell said, “in our economic system, they have a responsibility to get a good return on their investments for their shareholders. And if we’re trying to solve connectivity for rural America, trying to get them to do it is the wrong approach.”

Mitchell hopes that more money will go toward local governments and cooperatives, who have more incentive to build long-term solutions, including fiber optic networks that have the speed, capacity, and durability to meet communities’ needs for decades to come.

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