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Rural Internet access

The United States is not very wired. In 2005, the U.S. ranked 12th in the world in the prevalence of Internet access. Japan and much of Europe is ahead of us:

Internet access is particularly a problem in rural areas of the U.S. In Stokes County, DSL is available only in the more populated corner of the county near King. As far as I can tell from online research, there are two other telephone company central offices in the county, and the two remote central offices don’t even support DSL.

Cable? I’m too far out for that too. My neighbors in rural Stokes have dial-up access, if they have Internet access at all.

I’m a wired person. Dial-up won’t do.

Satellite for Internet access is a possibility, but I’d rather not go that route. It’s not that much more expensive that other types of broadband, but the bandwidth isn’t great, and there’s a delay while the signals make the 46,000-mile round trip up to the satellite and back.

I try to keep up with the Stokes County commissioners by reading the minutes of the commissioner meetings online:

From the minutes of the meeting on December 5, 2006, I learned that the commissioners had approved Alltel’s request for a 199-foot cell phone tower a couple of miles east of Danbury. The tower site is on the south side of Mission Road about four-tenths of a mile from the intersection of Pitzer Road.

In June 2007 I called the owner of the property, who was identified in the minutes, and asked him if he knew if the tower is working yet. He said that the tower is up, the power has been brought in, etc., and that he expects the tower will be working before long.

It’s very difficult to get information out of Alltel, but my hope is that this cell phone tower will support broadband EVDO service over the cellular network. Alltel calls this service “Axcess Broadband/MobileLink,” and prices start at $60 a month.

As soon as I’m on the ground in Stokes County, I’ll be following broadband developments very closely.

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