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High-Speed Web Goes Rural

AT&T announced plans to expand its broadband Internet service to more rural areas by way of satellite connectivity.
May 9, 2006

Hi. My name is Brad King, and I’m an Appalachian.

This is only news to folks who are new to my writing, as I’ve tried to slip in coverage about my home region as often as possible over the last 11 years. It’s not an easy task, writing about rural areas, particularly when you have lived San Francisco (as I did when I worked at Wired and Wired News) and Boston (where I now work for Technology Review).

Still, I’ve managed a few stories here and there, most notably (for me anyway), a series I did at Wired News back in 2001 about the gigantic cultural and technological gap between mega-connected cities and analog rural areas: Appalachia: Where Net Trails Off, Upgrading the Hillbilly Highway, and Cincy’s Artists Feel Tech Squeeze.

The basic premise for the series was that it was going to take far more than running a few high-speed lines into rural areas to create a truly digital economy for the 21st century. The cultural gap facing many folks – not an inherent distrust of new technologies, but a lack of understanding of how these technologies can solve immediate, day-to-day issues – was far more concerning to me.

I’ve come to believe, though, that the cultural gap can be overcome simply by exposing a new generation of rural children in general – and Appalachian kids specifically – to the Web (and even more so to Web 2.0), by creating a true broadband infrastructure. We’re nowhere near that level of penetration, but it’s still nice to read that AT&T has finally decided to make a big push into rural areas, according to this Reuters story:

“We are beginning to offer satellite-based broadband service in areas where our DSL service is not available today, giving more consumers a broadband choice,” AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre said in a speech at the Detroit Economic club.

AT&T is partnering with satellite-based high-speed Internet provider WildBlue to provide the service.

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