Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Broadband cooperative forming in northern Michigan

A broadband cooperative is forming in northern Michigan to provide residents and businesses in 12 counties with more and better options than dialup and satellite access.

According to the Peteskoy (Mich.) News-Review, organizers including the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance and Northeast Michigan Council of Governments are looking into rural development loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund broadband infrastructure.

History is repeating itself. A century ago, telephone co-ops were created to provide service to areas without it. Provided they can raise sufficient funding, these modern day telecommunications co-ops like the Northern Michigan Broadband Cooperative may prove successful because they cover large geographical areas and thus can leverage economies of scale to their advantage.

More typical and problematic are the numerous scattered broadband black holes that characterize America's incomplete telecommunications infrastructure. They encompass much smaller geographical areas and make it difficult for residents and businesses to take collective action like in northern Michigan. The Communications Workers of America has aptly termed this swiss cheese, crazy quilt telecom infrastructure a "hodge podge" that can result in some folks having state of the art advanced telecommunications services while others just down the road or on the next street are stuck in 1992 and limited to dialup access.

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