Stay rational and deliver on broadband promises if you want more

28 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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Not everyone feels a need for broadband.

There are two things rural communities in California have to do, to ensure broadband development efforts meet both current and future needs: focus the conversation on concrete, rational needs and demonstrate that existing resources are well and enthusiastically used.

That was the message from Eric Brown, CEO of the California Telehealth Network, at last week’sEastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium’s conference in Ridgecrest. He was one of many state and local broadband leaders – and users – who talked about the future of eastern California’s economy, now that the Digital 395 fiber route is fully lit and increasingly serving businesses, organisations and consumers from Barstow to Reno.

The argument in Washington against building broadband infrastructure in rural areas is that “nobody is using what’s out there”, Brown said, pointing to promises to use Digital 395 made, and then broken, by both private organisations and public agencies. “I’m sitting down with congressmen who don’t think we need to invest in rural broadband”, he said. “Particularly from the southeastern part of the country”. Their worries are “objectionable content” and concerns that online terrorists will start recruiting kids out of local high schools.

That’s a world that’s far, far away from California (although Google seems to think that’s a good thing). And far, far away from reality. Whether you’re in California or the so called real world, rural communities are sprinting to keep pace with Silicon Valley, not rushing to retreat into the 20th century.

The conversation has to get back to the core challenge facing rural communities, Brown said. “They shouldn’t be taking about net neutrality, they should be talking about how to get you the bandwidth you need in the first place. Net neutrality is for urban folks who have more bandwidth than they know what to do with”.