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A recent report from 2007 Census Data  showed Alabama 49 in the country, falling only behind Mississippi, in terms of being able to access the internet from home. We are 48th in having access from some location which includes public libraries, free hot spots and schools. Improved access to high speed internet is a major component of our plans to improve the quality of life in the 7th Congressional district, which is composed of some of the most impoverished counties in the country . Not being able to access information through the internet is no longer a luxury but a requirement to be competitive in education and the workforce.

This issue is going to be a major part of the Smoot for Congress (AL-07) campaign in 2010. We appreciate any comments and suggestions on this issue.

As our state and this district has lost a number of factory and blue collar jobs just in the past two years we need a level playing field. To be competitive in recruiting any industry to replace these jobs we must be able to improve the access to high speed internet.  

Rural areas and low income areas in our district should no longer be at a disadvantage in the information and technology age. When we go to congress, these barriers will be removed. Even if people cannot afford a computer, we must have more places and more opportunities at schools, libraries and community centers where you can utilize high speed internet access.  

The study, I’ve referenced also shows that your educational level is proportional to internet access. If you lack a high school education or a college education you more likely lack access to high speed internet access.

Internet usage also varied by education. For individuals 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, 87 percent reported going online from any location in 2007. For those with only some college, 74 percent reported using the Internet. About half (49 percent) of those with only a high school diploma reported using the Internet, compared with 19 percent for those without a high school diploma.

The people in the 7th Congressional District are at a unique disadvantage in accessing the internet because of the impoverished conditions and the rural landscape that lacks necessary infrastructure.

The lack of being able to access information can be detrimental in other ways. Just two days ago, I wrote a diary about how coal ash from a spill in Tenn is being shipped to Perry County, Alabama. If people in this area were able to access information they could learn of the potential dangers in this toxic material being transported to their community. With better access to the internet more people could research and find out that the material could have been shipped to a location with a much closer proximity. Online organizing a very strong tool to many is not even imagined in places with very low internet access.

While most of us take internet access for granted, the lack of access is a very important issue in rural and impoverished communities. This issue is going to be a very important part of the Smoot for Congress platform.

Originally posted to draftsmoot on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 08:53 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  another good diary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, elliott, mconvente

      thanks and some very good points

      •  added digital divide tag (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mattman, Ice Blue, alpolitics

        great diary!

        The Obama administration must make high-speed internet access universal and cheap; and even free in some public areas using wireless technologies.  Just like healthcare and high-speed rail, access to the internet is a competitiveness issue and internet access empowers disenfranchised communities with relevant information at their fingertips.

        The internet also helped Obama in countless ways to beat the odds to become POTUS.  So it's in the president's interest to get more people online and soon.  2010 and 2012 will be here before you know it.  Fox has already started the countdown. ;-)

  •  excellent diary (13+ / 0-)

    this is a huge problem... I have written some about it in the Top Comments diaries, but it is hard for most people to grasp how difficult this is -- or why. I do economic development in the Mississippi Delta, and broadband access is a problem in all 186 counties in the Delta, largely because the owners of the trunk lines try to force the rural communities to pay for the upgrade to their lines. AT&T has trunk lines running right along the highways, but doesn't want to have to upgrade their equipment into smaller communities. At the same time, the small rural phone providers are being bought out by SBC, etc., so no intentions to upgrade there.

    The communities, already hammered by declining tax bases, are slashing basic fire and police protection. They certainly can't afford to pay to run AT&T's lines for them. Where cable is available (about 30% of the area), the cost to individuals is much higher than in other areas. For example, in my state I live in the affluent section, but cable broadband here is about $25/month cheaper than it is in the Delta.

    The state has invested heavily in providing internet connections to all of the public schools. Too bad they often sit unused during the summer, and evenings and weekends during the school year. The libraries provide some access, but demand is so great they must limit the time individuals can spend online. And, again, they are only open a few hours each day.

    It does little good to make it possible for students to pursue higher education online if they can't get online to pursue it. The Delta Regional Authority, which extends to parts of Alabama, is targeting rural broadband access as a particular effort, but it is going to take more than that.

    Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ---Plato

    by carolita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 09:33:54 PM PDT

    •  i think that rephrasing issue will help (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, elliott

      to understand the benefits of having and the detriments of not having. it is a necessity issue

    •  This is true throughout most of the USA (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The state has invested heavily in providing Internet connections to all of the public schools. Too bad they often sit unused during the summer, and evenings and weekends during the school year. The libraries provide some access, but demand is so great they must limit the time individuals can spend on-line. And, again, they are only open a few hours each day.

      I stated this same problem 25 years ago at a school board meeting when the board was voting on spending $250,000 on AppleII's. They were only going to be used for 3 hours a day for 4 classes and that only special students would have access. They didn't understand then and they still don't. Wish you the best!

      Amazing the Time I waste Here!

      by raster44 on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 03:11:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Definitely an issue here, too. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But at least our new Congressman, Ben Ray Luján, it totally gung ho about doing something about it.  He headed the Public Regulatory Commission before going to Congress, so he already knows a lot of the nuts and bolts of relevant regulations and policy.

      I count myself lucky to have a Congressman who represents my issues and views remarkably well.  He's young and energetic, and has the chance to stick around the House a good long while.  In time, might actually get some power to get stuff done.  With luck, he won't get corrupted or jaded in the meantime.

      The river always wins. -- Mark Twain

      by Land of Enchantment on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 08:28:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What about the surcharge on our phone bills (7+ / 0-)

    that we have been paying for years now?  It was supposed to pay for providing internet access for Indian reservations and remote rural areas. I tried to track down information on where the money was spent but could get nothing. Maybe you should get some people to look into it that can get some answers.

  •  The Gates Foundation is a resource (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, pgm 01, alpolitics

    for getting computers into schools and libraries. That would be another place to look for support.

    •  They did an initiative on... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alpolitics, noe44

      ... Indian reservations, too.  Put in wireless towers, attached to a community computer lab.  They haven't been great about keeping it up, though, so the equipment on a local rez was way out of date last year.  And only getting worse.

      The river always wins. -- Mark Twain

      by Land of Enchantment on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 08:22:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is amazing to me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elliott, alpolitics

    how many still lack access.  I pay around $50/month to Comcast, however they just bumped my speed again this week.  Because my modem is so old, they set the speed caps to unlimited so I now get sustained downloads of 15-20 Mbps and uploads get stuck at a little over 1 Mbps, the package is actually 12Mbps down and 2Mbps up.  They do offer an unadvertised lower speed and cheaper tier 768 kbps / 384 kbps.  I think everybody should have access to high speed internet (over 1.5 Mbps in both directions)because many websites are designed for really fast internet users.  

    There are many different wireless technologies that require less infrastructure costs than running lines which would be ideal in rural areas, but the government will have to jumpstart the initiative by helping to lower the costs.  At the very least, local schools and libraries should have access, if the area doesn't have a public library, there should be somewhere where the public can access the internet for free.  It really is no longer a luxury, many forms that people need are posted only on the web, some jobs can only be applied for online.  Having access to the internet is central to lifting people out of poverty.

  •  It's a way the powers that be keep people as (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, elfling, Ice Blue, alpolitics

    .... mushrooms.

    During the past 3 years I've struggled a lot of times with internet access.  I ended up doing a lot of research and writing at night when the lines were less crowded.   I live in a rural area in what is supposed to be one of the most technologically advanced states in country and world, yet my electrical source was flickering out several times a day which was creating havoc until I went to a laptop computer with a battery.
    Don't get me going on the topic of lack of high speed, I've been told it is never coming to this part of the county because it is an area not slated for new suburban development, end of discussion.
    Tried having somebody install a broadband thing with a receiver and router, what a joke, it crapped out after the first month and I could never get them scheduled to come and permanently fix it so it was consistent.
    Had to use dial up all the time.  Was really exasperating for time sensitive material.
    Went to a wireless cell modem a few years back,  once cell service came here, while the reception is still spotty and has me confined to certain areas of the house, and it still dumps me constantly, at least it's much faster than dial up.
    Used to lose the phone line too all the time.  The one good thing about the destructive storm in 2008 was that these utility companies had to replace a lot of faulty infrastructure. Hah.
    But, OMG, a person in a city would never put up with this constantly losing electrical, phone, internet connection, it's like living in some rinky dink second world country... oh wait, I think I am.

    Can't imagine somebody in a poor area shelling out this much money for a laptop with serious power and the monthly fee for the wireless cell modem connection, just to be able to connect with the outside world.   I can't imagine the Republicans ever cooperating on this.  They know that lack of information is how they keep power.

    "Toads of Glory, slugs of joy... as he trotted down the path before a dragon ate him"-Alex Hall/ Stop McClintock

    by AmericanRiverCanyon on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 03:20:25 AM PDT

  •  New Mexico... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, elfling, Ice Blue

    ... likely in there, too.  We've got a lot of areas where plain old phone service is nigh unto impossible to get.   Land lines hard to come by in some areas, and rugged terrain greatly limits cell coverage, too.

    So yeah, internet access is a problem, too.  We're right up with you guys for per capita income, high school dropout rates and bunch of other demographics no one wants to brag about.

    The river always wins. -- Mark Twain

    by Land of Enchantment on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 08:21:22 PM PDT

  •  just a note. (0+ / 0-)

    You may not get any mileage out of it, but my experience growing up in the south (with a dozen cousins in Opelika) those who get through highschool without learning to read, can't even find the free porn on the internet.

    Not the digital divide you're looking to fix, but my dumb ass cousins were considered geniuses by their neighbors.

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 09:25:23 PM PDT

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