Obama And Rural Broadband

Al Cross at the Rural Blog has a post about President-Elect Obama’s plans for improved broadband penetration. Obama mentioned the need to increase internet access in his press conference today (the one attended by Mayor Abramson).

The typically tech-friendly Obama and his fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin supported a similar effort last year. Back then, it relied on public-private partnerships like Connected Nation, which began as ConnectKentucky.

Here’s our report from last year on ConnectKentucky’s questionable progress. While the full details haven’t been released, it looks like Obama is no longer recommending support for Connected Nation or its affiliates.

When I was conducting interviews for the ConnectKentucky story, I talked to the managers of several small ISPs. They agreed that the free market was increasing access, but it needed a booster shot of cash to speed things up. If people in rural areas had the money for computers and service, ISPs would meet that demand, they said. If the ISPs had more money, they could improve their infrastructure and increase competition, theoretically lowering prices.

The ISPs also had plans for increasing demand and service without the direct injection of money. One way would be to provide low-cost computers to low-income households – something ConnectKentucky has begun working on. Another is to reverse years of regulation and deregulation to make smaller ISPs more competitive with the giant telecoms.

So, what do you support: Cash-infusions, discount computers, new legislation or some combination of the three?