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Broadband Infrastructure: Should Rural Investment Be a Priority?

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Sometimes those promoting extensive infrastructure projects — broadband or otherwise — exhibit a Field of Dreams mentality: “If you build it, they will come.” My own state of California is currently wrestling with such a project, a $68 billion high-speed rail line that opponents claim is too expensive and will never pay for itself. My attitude: come the day we have to evacuate San Francisco or Los Angeles after a major earthquake, people are going to be grateful it was built.

As we recently discussed in Broadband Backlash: Where It Comes From and How to Fix It, broadband deployments also have their detractors. Currently, one of the biggest areas of contention swirls around the value of rural broadband. There are really two sides of the story.

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Living in the Future is Awesome

By Lionel Walters,  Guest Columnist

Some of the most compelling memories I have from my school years involve trips away to see amazing things, or special visits to the school by amazing people. I still have vivid memories of the sights, sounds and even smells of some of the fascinating places we went to, and I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach as I met my favourite author and had him personally autograph some of my most treasured books.

To me, what made these experiences successful was that they lifted my sights and gave me something to aspire to. Unfortunately for many students living in rural areas, these boundary-breaking experiences are few and far between, either because of funding constraints or simply the lack of appropriate people or places to see.

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USDA Grants Help Rural Communities Connect

January 12, 2012 at 7:37 am PST

A recent study from the U.K. Department of Health finds that using remote monitoring technology to keep tabs on patients’ blood sugar and cardiopulmonary disease can reduce the risk of patient mortality by up to 45 percent. With statistics like this, hospitals and medical clinics can’t afford not to embrace telehealth technologies. Not to mention, telehealth is quickly becoming a competitive differentiator in some markets around the U.S. According to Mark Probst, CIO for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, “I don’t see how the hospital CEO can ignore telemedicine.”

While tech-savvy patients in urban areas will likely begin to demand more user-friendly access to healthcare, therefore driving the adoption of telehealth in metropolitan-area hospitals, the technology is more than just a convenience for residents in rural areas; it can be the difference between life and death. Read More »

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M-Agriculture Empowers Farmers in Developing Economies

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

A while back, I wrote about the potential for mobile banking to create new opportunity and economic growth in developing countries. Now, I’d like to look at how a related application, mobile agriculture (m-agriculture), is transforming rural villages.

M-agriculture is about bringing mobile information access to rural communities and small-hold farmers. While the concept is still in its infancy, early implementations suggest it can make a big difference.

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Why Rural Broadband Access Matters

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Countries blessed and cursed with wide-open spaces continue to wrestle with the question of how to serve rural areas with broadband infrastructure. In Australia, naysayers question the viability of its National Broadband Network.

In the United States, the stimulus package included some $3.5 billion for rural development, but based on progress reports from officials at the Department of Agriculture, the broadband deployment only addressed a small portion of the demand.

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