“Broadband Crawling Its Way to Exurbs”

Today’s The Washington Post has published an article describing the difficulties that thousands of Washingtonians on the exurban periphery have getting broadband Internet access. Staff Writer Amit R. Paley quotes one woman as saying, “My husband is just screaming his brains out because it’s so slow,” she said. “It’s killing us. It’s absolutely killing us.”

My reaction: Duh! What did you expect?

A remarkable number of people who move into the exurbs, with their low taxes and low cost of housing, bring with them an expectation of an urban level of services. It just doesn’t work that way. Not only does scattered, disconnected, low-density development make transportation expensive to provide, it makes utilities expensive to provide, too.

The Post quotes Steve E. Collier, vice president of emerging technologies at the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, as saying that subsidies from the federal government probably will be needed to ensure that high-speed Internet access extends to the most far-flung parts of the country. The Post doesn’t quote anyone mentioning the obvious alternative: If broadband is really important to you, don’t move to the stinkin’ exurbs! Or if you do move, don’t expect everyone else to subsidize your poorly planned locational decision!!

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Anonymous Avatar

    You see the same thing where people move to the country and proclaim to the hills that they love thier new way of life, but then they start calling the Game Department to keep the Deer from eating thier garden and start clamoring for sewer and water services that drive up costs for everyone. Its a no win situation when people with cash to burn come from large urban areas and begin to change the landscape and the way of life of the region they thought they wanted to move to for its rural qualities.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Yeah but what about when the rural folks come to the city and start demanding to go barefoot in restaurants?

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    The Post and others have had hysterically funny articles on this topic.

    Folks move to the country to get away from violence and then learn their neighbors have guns and use them.

    The first thing they do is put up security lights because its dark out here, soon they blot out the stars.

    They drive like maniacs on country roads barely suitable for carriages and then go nutso when they encounter slow moving farm equipment.

    They put up bird feeders and are surprised when they attract bears.

    They turn 20 acres of countryside into 20 acres of lawn. Then they discover that they need a $10,000 lawn mower to keep up.

    They nevitably park their homes high on a knoll so they get a good view of all the other homes, never mind they are going to take a 15% energy hit for doing so. Then they wonder why the wind kills the trees they put op for privacy and windbreak.

    They want to keep their land in land use, but don’t want to pay for the required maintenance and definitely don’t want manure.

    They freak out when a possum or groundhog takes up residence under the porch. They call the neighbors to complain about mooing.

    etc. etc. etc.

    That said, some company came through here and laid down optical cable as thick as my wrist – still no broadband.

    I buy 52k modems by the dozen because lighting strikes take them out so often. One forward looking county turned the entire county into a wi-fi hotspot by installing hundreds of repeaters on the phone poles. They didn’t call it a subsidy, they called it a public service for the purpose of economic development.

  4. Jerry Gray Avatar
    Jerry Gray

    Down here in metropolitan Clintwood, we have wireless broadband that is very fast, faster than dsl.

    DCWIN is owned by the county (Dickenson), and monthly fees are affordable.

    In fact, Verizon told us years ago that they would never put dsl in Dickenson County. Now that we have wireess, they suddenly found the ability.

    All it takes is

  5. Jerry Gray Avatar
    Jerry Gray

    Okay, I mean wireless.

    And to complete the sentence, all it takes is either the private sector or local government to set it up.

    In Tazewell, a private firm has wireless (with telephone service).

    I have the wireless at my law office, and dsl at home (the signals don’t reach down into the holler where I live).

  6. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jim: There is a much larger story in this and the Wash. Compost missed it. You see, for years now the phone companies were allowed to charge higher rates for local phone service; the reason being that they needed to make major investments to their infrastructure. Since the 1980s the local public utility commissions allowed them to charge the higher rates so that the phone companies could wire everyone to the new broadband standards. And back then the standard they were talking about was ISDN.

    Needless to say, the phone companies never wired the entire country to ISDN, even though they collected billions of dollars to do just that. A former industry insider had written a book in the mid-1990s about the $4 billion scam perpetrated by the phone companies against the consumers. But that didn’t get much play as the utility commissions are usually in cahoots with the monopolies they’re supposed to regulate.

    Now the technology has moved on and they’re still charging the higher rates for local service. And again, they’ll never completely wire the country for DSL. I live in the heart of the High-Tech corridor in NOVA and I still can’t get DSL service, because I’m about 18,000 ft. away from the switching station. And their wiring up here is a total mess. They’re using multiplexers that allow them to put more than one number of the same line. I can’t even get more than 26 Kbps (sometimes much less than that) on a dial-up connection, never mind the 52 Kbps that is today’s standard for dial-up.

    And the phone companies have already moved on and now claim they’ll bring fiber-optic to each home. But again, only those in certain areas are going to get this service, while the rural communities will get passed again.

    Do you see the pattern here? Make a small infrastructure investment while saying that you’ll wire everyone to the latest standard. They then wait until new technologies come out and they say that since they hadn’t finished wiring everyone to the earlier standard, they’ll just have to move on and implement the new technology. They then make another small infrastructure investment and wait for the cycle to repeat itself. That way, they never have to deliver on the promise of wiring the entire country.

    It’s really a shame that these “regulated”—Ha!—monopolies have been allowed to get away with such a scam. The only hope for getting liberated from the telephone-monopoly tyranny is for the technology to evolve to the point that third parties can provide wireless service that is just as fast as wired connections. Once this happens, you’ll see that the phone companies all of a sudden will discover the advantages of competition.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Gerry, I have a question about the wireless broadband service you have in Dickenson County. It that limited to Clintwood? I can’t imagine that the entire county has been wired.

    Phil, I find it mind-boggling that, as a citizen of a world-class information technology center–and a leader in telecommunications technologies, to boot–you have lousy dial-up Internet access at home. All I can say is, thank goodness for competition. With the spread of WI-FI, VoIP and other technologies, the local telephone monopolies won’t last much longer.

  8. Jeremy Hinton Avatar
    Jeremy Hinton

    Speaking from “the competition” (wireless ISP/phone provider) a few points:

    Phil, the “multiplexers” that you refer to are likely SLC or “slick” systems. These are true upgrades, and are what the phone companies use when bringing fiber into an area. It allows them to service a higher density over fiber, and serve more customers, and as such is an improvement However, it defeats high speed DSL, which (except for low speed iDSL), must be copper back to the CO.

    Also realize that fiscally DSL only make sense for CLECs (and ILECs) once the density in a given area can justify the cost of “lighting” a CO. In large acreage/lot areas, a single CO can serve a much larger area (lower customer density). As such, it serves customer much farther from the CO, and as such not within the distance limitations for DSL. Even if you’re close enough to the CO, if enough other potential customers aren’t, it doesn’t make business sense to upgrade the CO (or if your a CLEC, to add your service to the CO).

    Regarding wireless, once WiMax networks start to come online (2006), i expect we will begin to see increased proliferation of wireless in currently unserviced areas. However, as licensing is still prohibitively expensive for smaller players, interferrence between the different players in a single market could result in service degradations for all.

    As an engineer at company currently providing wireless service, i can tell you that (at least in hampton roads), wireless is growing, and unlicensed frequencies are getting pretty crowded.

  9. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jim: The dial-up is a fall back. Luckily, Cox.net finally got around to upgrading their cable network a few years ago and we were finally able to get cable modem service. I couldn’t exist with dial-up, not with all the online type of work I do.

  10. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jeremy: The “multiplexers” I’m referring to–perhaps I’ve got the wrong name for them–are not new technology. They’re old technology allowing the phone companies to get more numbers through the system without increasing their old line capacity. They’ve had these for years.

Leave a Reply