Sunday, June 04, 2017

Not just a rural issue: gaps in telecom infrastructure widespread in metro areas

Despite billions of public dollars, some rural residents slog through slow internet | Madison Wisconsin Business News | Donovan Wright lives in a small subdivision in the town of Pleasant Springs near Stoughton, just 12 miles from the center of Wisconsin’s second-biggest city, but he is among more than an estimated 232,000 state residents who cannot tap a wired network to get online at any speed. It means his children access the web using unreliable and sluggish cellular service to do their homework. He can’t file his tax returns online. And streaming Netflix? Not a chance.

Michael Bridgeman, of the town of Roxbury in northwest Dane County, goes to a local library or the UW-Madison campus, a half-hour’s drive away, to do just about anything more internet-intensive than checking email. His slow connection hampers the occasional consulting work he does. Jane Leverance of the town of Oregon wants to enjoy some of the conveniences other people with internet access have enjoyed for years, including paying bills online. But even with a cellular-powered Wi-Fi hot spot to get online, the connection and speed are unreliable.

When it comes to advanced telecommunications infrastructure, what constitutes "rural" America isn't locales in sparsely populated agricultural industry counties deep in the nation's heartland. In this context, "rural" means where there are gaps in landline infrastructure, leaving premises within a mile or two of existing infrastructure with no or minimal service options or forced to get by on mobile wireless service.

As a map of service availability in the Madison, Wisconsin metro accompanying this article illustrates, those gaps appear in metro areas, forming a crazy quilt pattern of areas with service meeting minimum U.S. Federal Communications Commission standards and those without. The pattern repeats all over the United States, making the issue a national rather than local one.

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