Rural communities are dying, or at least that is the accepted wisdom within the mainstream media and those who live in larger cities. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest between what is better, rural or urban, but to deny that there are unique challenges facing rural communities today that they have not had to deal with in the past would be both incorrect and extremely shortsighted.
The questions should be what can we do to change things? The demographics are not going to change drastically for many reasons, but what can rural communities do to both keep those people who are currently there and maybe even grab a few from outside to bolster their ranks?
I’m going to focus on one opening where rural communities are in a unique position (I think) to take a huge step forward and encourage innovation in the technology realm: symmetrical, high-speed broadband.
I understand that there is a capital expenditure that is needed in such endeavors, but in the USA, asymmetrical broadband is the norm and is borderline criminal. People speak of the web as a publishing platform, but the current infrastructure leans HEAVILY toward only consuming. The paltry upload speeds keep people from doing two things: uploading large files and hosting their own stuff in-house.
Rural communities could turn this problem on its head by investing in networking infrastructures and then opening them up for people to use as they would like. Not only would it benefit schools, libraries, law enforcement agencies, government offices, health services and any other public services, but it would also open it up for the citizens to try to build companies in these areas because bandwidth is plentiful and affordable.
It’s time for rural communities to band together and start to think outside of agriculture and natural resources as the only viable economic activities and invest in something that can benefit everyone. Their small size would allow for cheaper roll outs, so less capital is needed to get going. Being smaller also would keep larger telcos off of your back (hopefully).
The future is quickly coming, so let’s get on board!