RURAL AND URBAN DIVIDE  

During a staff brainstorming session today, the lack of dependable phone and internet service came to the fore for the umpteenth time as we discussed customer interaction.

 Civilization is built on resources turned into food, fiber, and energy.  Doing all of that more efficiently and having enough left over time to engage in other pursuits like art and entertainment is an overarching cultural objective.  Tragically, the historical trajectory and outcome of this is to enrich cities and impoverish the country.

 Whether it's a macro situation like colonialism versus empire or a city center versus the surrounding farmland, the end result is wealth gradually moving from rural resource to city center.  To enable the rural community to tap into city wealth, it must be able to access urban populations.

 The need to move product from country to city has driven everything from better ox carts to faster horses to mechanical power and today, Amazon.  I do a lot of podcasts and I'm amazed at the number of people who can't believe that I can't do skype because our internet is too slow.  Even though we pay big bucks for the best laser-wi-fi available, it's still nothing close to the high speed enjoyed by our urban friends.

 People living in the city can't imagine living in a place with no wi-fi.  But out here in rural America, living without it is a real obstacle to business success.  Our local newspaper carried a story just yesterday about a study being conducted in our county regarding the feasibility of putting a mobile wi-fi package in a school bus.  Like a mobile wi-fi lab that would travel around.

 Now anybody who knows me knows I'm pretty libertarian minded.  But I can tell you, as a rural business person facing the frustration of being unable to download the most simple things or get phone access to customers, it's frustrating to see this opportunity gap widening.  The pressure is for businesses to keep moving away from rural areas and locate in the metropolitan areas where population density enables high capital infrastructure development.

 I don't know what the answer is, and I hate using the word discrimination because I understand the better economic viability of population density for things like phone lines and roads.  But I also believe it's not culturally healthy to continue weakening rural areas financially, and disempowering them from opportunity.  Impoverishing the countryside where the raw materials for living are either stewarded or exploited is not a good thing.

 This access difficulty encourages factory farming because the small farmer building a complete customer interface needs electronic access to those customers.  Factory farming is like colonialism, in that the farmer need not interface with anyone in the city.  He just raises a raw product that goes to urban places for value adding and marketing.

 To me it's maddening that our county does not bat an eye at spending $100 million on new school buildings only to send those kids out to their homes where wi-fi access is either nonexistent or highly limited.  Perhaps another question would be whether or not $5 billion for a wall with Mexico could be better spent bringing rural America up to par with Ghana and China.  There, because the internet was second generation, high speed internet is available in the most remote rice paddy.

 I'm not an engineer and I don't know what all the answers are, but I'm sitting here feeling more and more out of touch, more isolated as a rural business, unable to interact at today's expectations, with the rest of the world.

 Do you have an answer for this?