Can community wi-fi help revive rural areas?

When Windom’s dominant phone company, Qwest, decided against setting up a broadband network a few years back, Dan says the town had a choice: get with the digital revolution on its own or be left in the dust. They chose to build Windomnet. It launched a little over a year ago and it cost close to 10 million dollars. But Olsen says towns without a strong telecommunications back-bone don’t have much of a future. “Rural communities are shrinking because the jobs aren’t there. You’ve got to go to the cities for the jobs. Well, what does big city have that we don’t? It’s infrastructure you need to have the telecom part of it.”…

Dan Olsen estimates that almost half the town is now using broadband. It costs about 35 dollars to get hooked up. And experts say this kind of access will soon be the norm. As the cost of connecting goes down and more rural towns get broadband capabilities, the digital divide will eventually disappear. But even here in wired little Windom there’s a new divide forming. Not one of access, but one of choice.

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Filed under Community WiFi, Broadband, Digital Divide

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