Broadband coöperatives are cropping up throughout rural America, bringing high-speed Internet to places that would otherwise be without.
While low population numbers in places like the Eastern Shore may be good for wetlands and a rural lifestyle, it may not be the best for high-speed internet. Telecom and cable companies don’t like delivering Internet infrastructure to residents of rural areas because financially, the numbers simply don’t stack up: the cost of hardware and installation can’t be paid off by the small number users. Broadband right across the bay, with companies like Cox, continues to improve, exacerbating what the Federal Communications Commission has referred to as a “persistent digital divide.”
While The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority has been making great headway, bringing providers such as NuBeam and Level(3), as well as an exciting test deployment of fiber to homes in Exmore, getting broadband out to the creeks and necks is still a daunting task.
In the early 1900s, electric companies were also tentative about building out infrastructure in rural areas. To bring electricity to farms and remote outposts, local coöperatives took the initiative and installed their own hardware, hanging electrical cables. Rural broadband is beginning to see a similar thing happen.
The New York Times reports that around 40 electric cooperatives are building out high-speed Internet infrastructure, while many towns are also leaning on old electricity laws to secure funding to do the same. Most of these efforts are customer-owned.
As the Shore continues to struggle to solve the last mile Broadband problem that telecoms don’t really want to tackle, local community based efforts may be the most effective way to put Internet into the hands of even our most remote locations.