Friday, September 12, 2008

Dan Scripps Talks Broadband

Dan Scripps, our Democrat for State Rep, wrote his weekly Thursday economic issues column on the importance of broadband internet to the rural economies. He described the rural Electrification Project of the 1930's and spoke of how a similar effort to provide broadband service today could provide a boost to our area:

By making loans available to local electrification cooperative, which were often driven by farmers, the Rural Electrification Act helped farmers modernize their operations, provided the encouragement necessary for private electric companies to connect rural households (which ultimately lowered electric rates), and made it possible for businesses to remain and grow in rural America.

So what?

Well, as important as extending electricity to rural areas was to reviving the economy of the 1930s, access to broadband is at least as important to growing Michigan’s economy today. Indeed, as former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and media expert Robert McChesney noted, broadband represents “a technology that, in terms of powering economies, could be the 21st century equivalent of electricity.” Moreover, while many assume that access to broadband is universal, 60% of American households do not have access to broadband either because it is unavailable or unaffordable, and our global position is getting worse: “since 2001, according to the International Telecommunications Union, the United States has fallen from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband penetration.”

I'm told by local real estate people that "Can I get broadband here?" is one of the first questions that prospective buyers ask about properties in Leelanau county. Recently Higher Grounds coffee company, after struggling to get broadband access in Leland Township's only zoned industrial district, relocated to Traverse City. Broadband is the key to attracting and keeping the right-sized businesses in our township, and to keeping our farms and businesses competitive.

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