Making Broadband Universal

If you want high-speed internet access, and you happen to live in certain areas on and around Eastern Kentucky’s Pine Mountain–currently there’s only one thing to do: Move.

So begins the story of Pine Mountain Residents for Broadband, a local group in eastern Kentucky organizing around the issue of access to high-speed internet in rural areas like Central Appalachia.

Living in a house that hangs onto the edge of Letcher County, whenever Samantha Sparkman, 21, pops open her Compaq laptop to try to surf the Internet, she has to deal with a plodding and unreliable dial-up connection.”It took me three days to download 15 songs” she says of the time she purchased music from iTunes.

Studying to become a Physical Therapy Assistant, Sparkman’s Internet frustrations aren’t just about not being able to snag her favorite tunes. She needs to download online tests and lectures for her classes, classes that’ll be hard to complete if she doesn’t find a speedier way to link to the Internet.

Over in Harlan County– in another area that borders Pine Mountain– that’s sort of what happened to James Boggs. Though he stopped taking online college courses for a variety of reasons, one of them was definitely his appallingly slow dial-up connection: “Beyond a doubt it’s impossible to do the work,” says Boggs. The 26-year-old recalls how once, it took him nearly an hour to download an article that consisted of a single page.

Their story is collected as part of a new national effort called Dial-Up Rocks, which is asking folks to sign a petition to become a Digital Inclusion Champion. By doing so, signers are asking the FCC and Congress to create a National Broadband Plan that defines broadband as a universal service, and puts in place network neutrality rules that protect an open and non-discriminatory internet.

Jason Bailey

About Jason Bailey

Jason Bailey is Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and serves as Research and Policy Director of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.