High-speed Internet service arrived at our home this week. We’re only one decade late for the 21st century, and the rejoicing has reached the heavens.
We live in a mostly rural county of about 35,000 people, and for most of us the only alternative to dial-up is satellite service, which is high-speed but not as fast as cable broadband. Satellite is also unreliable in bad weather and very expensive.
My family’s digital leap forward came thanks to a local wireless company that started several years ago to provide high-speed business access for some of our big farmers. They began by putting transmitters atop grain silos, offering free service to the silo owner in lieu of rent. Now they have some real towers, and one of them can hit our hilltop home. If we lived in a valley, we’d still be out of luck.
All of this is not just a personal problem. Almost 10 percent of the U.S. population still has only dial-up, which, at this point, is almost unusable for anything except text e-mail. Add in the folks with no Internet connection at all, and you have one-fourth of our people left in the digital ditch. Those folks are not just missing the piano-playing cat on YouTube. The disconnected are also, for example, unable to take online college classes or download many public documents that are no longer readily available in print. And, increasingly, they simply don’t know what is being talked about during election campaigns that are often driven by online video postings.
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