Friday, January 2, 2009

Creeping down the information superhighway

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person in my high school class to have an internet connection at home and an email address. My parents subscribed to a dial-up plan that brought the world to my computer screen at 26.6kbps...pretty decent for a country boy in 1995.

After having the wonderful experience of using high-speed internet at college, I returned back to the farm in 2001 and signed up for the only 'net connection option available to me...dial-up. I'm still using it and on a good day I can get a 28.8kbps connection.

There are higher-speed options available to me. A local company installs wireless internet, and I could always subscribe to a satellite service. What I would really like is for the phone company to extend their DSL service by LESS THAN A MILE so I could get access to it, though an operator once told me, "it could be between three months and three years before it's available at your location." I don't want to pay $40 more monthly for a wireless connection that's 128k slower than the basic DSL package or $50 more monthly for a satellite connection (plus equipment costs and a 2 year commitment) that's equal to the mid-range DSL package. I need better options!

We in rural America need reliable, affordable broadband access. Especially farmers, who now more than ever need access to up-to-the-minute information, educational "webinars", and other 'net applications that are only practical with a high-speed connection. And that's just the receiveing part of it. More and more of us are using the 'net to promote our products and farms and are using it to share the story of agriculture with the populace at-large. A good example of how broadband access would be beneficial for me is that it would give me the ability to post videos of my farm. These videos could be the best avenue through which to share about my operation, but I simply don't have the connection I need to upload such large files.

Thankfully, there are other people concerned with this issue. Alabama's governor, Bob Riley, issued an executive order last May creating the Alabama Broadband Initiative. The goal is to extend broadband capabilities throughout our state, and hopefully that will include Gilmer Dairy Farm. Provided all the technical issues get worked out, I'll be participating in a video conference (from a location with high-speed, of course) Monday morning and will address some of these concerns. I certainly look forward to the opportunity and hope that I can make a meaningful contribution.

I don't expect someone to knock on my door next week and tell me that broadband is available to me, but knowing that our state government is making a committment to expanding it at least gives me a little hope. It also means I'll be patient and stick with dial-up instead of switching to wireless or least for a little while longer.

No comments: