Want broadband? Move into a dorm

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by Ann Treacy | July 19, 2009 • There’s an essay today on the Minnesota 2020 site that caught my attention: Where’s my Internet? It the story of a techie kid growing up too far from the grid to get broadband, the thrill of moving into a dorm with broadband and an interesting take on public input on the ARRA funding:

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year allocated more than $7 billion to “expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S.,” funding which, theoretically, could eventually help provide high-speed internet access to my family and others around the nation. This is an important first step in bringing America’s rural areas up to an equal technological level as the rest of the country, but we need to do more. As of right now, those families without access to broadband cannot shape the expansion process in any way. They cannot ask any governmental organization for service to be extended to their area, nor is there an official way to request their local internet providers to provide service. In short, there is no way to track how this money is being spent, and no level of accountability on the part of service providers to ensure that rural broadband is in fact being expanded. For those of us still without high-speed access in our homes, and for a goal as important as bringing all Americans up to speed with the rest of the developed world, we need transparency throughout this process.

You can hear the frustration. I don’t know how practical a broadband request line would be – but it certainly makes the point that folks in un- and underserved areas need to speak out – and now is a good time.

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