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ISPs to rural America: Live with dial-up

August 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET
Alpine Access hires its workforce of 7,500 home-based call center agents over the Internet, and broadband is the price of admission. "Access through our Web site is the only way you can become an employee here," says Rick Owens, vice president of technology. "Some type of broadband service is necessary." Dial-up won't cut it because the applet that connects employees to Alpine Access systems requires a high-speed connection.

Rural areas need broadband. But deregulation has freed carriers from any real obligation to offer it. The market will never provide universal broadband access without regulation or subsidies, but the U.S. lacks both a coherent policy and the political will to address the issue. Even as the telephony infrastructure itself is absorbed into the Internet, some policy-makers still fail to view broadband as the new critical infrastructure.

Rossey remains incredulous about his experience. "If you can bring electricity to a house, we should be able to bring Internet access," he says.

You'd think so. At this point, however, it's probably too late to go back to the future.

What should be done about the lack of broadband access in rural communities? Is it unfair to ask people in more densely populated regions to subsidize rural residents, as is done with telephone service? Please post your thoughts in the comment area below.

See also: What's the Best Broadband Provider?

Robert L. Mitchell is a Computerworld national correspondent. Contact him at robert_mitchell@

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