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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broadband Essential for Entrepreneurs... But U.S. 23rd in Fast Web

Memo to all rural economic development specialists: Mike Knutson at Reimagine Rural notes that broadband is essential for entrepreneurship on the prairie:

Those of us who live and work in rural communities know the importance of high speed Internet connections. Because of it, the barriers of distance are broken and more businesses are possible in small towns. In fact, just the other week I met with an entrepreneur from Howard, SD whose business would not be possible without it. The owner has an engineering background, and he needs the Internet to connect with clients around the country. He’s a creative guy and wants to live in a rural community. Without broadband, he might have to consider moving to a city [Mike Knutson, "Broadband: An Entrepreneurial Requirement," Reimagine Rural, 2010.07.28].

In just two decades, broadband Internet access has become as essential to business growth as telephone and electricity. The broadband need Knutson highlights poses a challenge to my local self-sufficiency paradigm: I like to advocate building as much of our economy as possible on local people producing locally used goods and services... but lots of creative people have money-making skills that just can't find a sustainable market in small places like Howard or Madison. Even if you have a product or service that you can make a living on exclusively within the South Dakota market, you need fast Web to get your message (and your images, and your video!) out to your customers in Sioux Falls, Milbank, and Hill City.

Unfortunately for all of us, the United States is lagging in broadband deployment. In a survey of 57 countries, we rank 23rd in getting good Internet and all of its concomitant business opportunities to everybody. Why are we lagging?

The United States... trailed the rankings in a number of the five index components. [Analyst Ben] Piper says competition—or the lack of it—is to blame for the high prices and low average speeds in the US.

"With essentially zero intra-platform competition, US service providers have little incentive to innovate offerings or differentiate beyond par," said Piper ["U.S. Ranks 23rd in Broadband Development," StrategyAnalytics, 2010.07.20].

What? You mean the free market is working better in those darned socialist countries like France and Germany and Lithuania than it is in the U.S. of A.? My world is being turned upside down all over today.

Let's hope some of those mystery companies LAIC's Dwaine Chapel is confabbing with behind closed doors are broadband companies to bring zoom-zoom Internet, competition, and entrepreneurship to Madison.

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