August 24, 2005

Rural Yearnings For Broadband: When Lifestyle Choices Have Consequences

Residents of some of the rural towns of western Massachusetts are frustrated over the lack of high-speed Internet access, the Boston Globe reports. Whether they seek work-at-home careers in pastoral settings or are concerned that their kids will fall behind their peers, some of these residents keep lobbying service providers to bring them broadband - although providers say the low population densities and (in the case of DSL) distance from switching stations doesn't make such service feasible.

On one level, I feel their pain - I'm pretty much addicted to my home high-speed Internet access and am already mulling Verizon's higher speed Fios offering. On the other hand, though, it's amazing to me that people who specifically moved to a small rural Berkshire town to "get away from it all" are now somehow surprised that they don't have access to the conveniences of a densely populated metro area. Too many people in America don't understand that the lifestyle choices they make - large home or small home? large lots or small lots? city, suburb or country? close to a city or not? - have consequences beyond how far you have to travel to a good deli or Chinese restaurant.

Yes, at some point it will probably become an equal-access issue for students. I'm not sure we're there yet, though. These same small-town residents probably give little thought to the fact that the rest of us are subsidizing their affordable access to telephone and electricity. But should we be expected to do the same for high-speed Internet for, say, a Princeton graduate who " planned an idyllic existence [in Shutesbury], working from home as a consultant while surrounded by piney forest"?

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