Monday, February 16, 2009

Broadband stimulus for rural areas

The recently passed stimulus bill contains $7.2 billion for expanding broadband access in rural areas.  But in an NPR broadcast that aired today the former FCC economist, Michael Katz, argues that the money is ill spent.  In fact, he comes down pretty hard on country places:

"Other people don't like to say bad things about rural areas," Katz began. "So I will."

The stimulus package includes $7.2 billion to expand broadband Internet access into "underserved" and rural areas. Katz listed ways that the $7.2 billion could be put to better use, including an effort to combat infant deaths. But he also spoke of rural places as environmentally hostile, energy inefficient and even weak in innovation, simply because rural people are spread out across the landscape.

"The notion that we should be helping people who live in rural areas avoid the costs that they impose on society … is misguided," Katz went on, "from an efficiency point of view and an equity one."

Environmentally hostile?  Hmm, and all that concrete and pollution in our urban areas is not hostile to the environment? Weak in innovation? OK, maybe we'll keep all our livestock, grain, vegetables, and fruits for ourselves, thank you very much.

An article on ars technica last week has some more:

Katz argues that...rural residents enjoy far lower housing costs than denizens of highly wired urban areas. (He even offered his own tongue-in-cheek proposal to require rural residents to buy their own broadband service unless it would cost more than the difference between the cost of rural living and that of keeping a flat in Manhattan.)

Well, our housing costs may be lower. But so is our income.

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