Going Where no Cable has Gone Before

If you’re able to read this using a DSL or cable internet connection, consider yourself lucky. Many Americans still don’t have access to high speed lines and are still relying on dial up. For communities tired of waiting for the local cable or phone companies to provide service there’s another alternative. This information is particularly useful for rural libraries who may be required to provide high speed access.

In the Appalachian area of Ohio, Bob Dixon and Alan Escovitz from Ohio State University are pioneers. They refer to their project as “rural datafication”, a play off of the effort to bring electricity to remote areas during the New Deal referred to as “rural electrification”. They are bringing broadband Internet connectivity to rural communities such as Chesterhill using satellite technology. Funding from the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) enabled them to purchase the hardware, Dixon and Escovitz volunteered their time to train a local technician and they worked together to install it. The satellite dish, only three feet wide, is located behind the library connected to an antenna on the roof. It sends a signal to another antenna on top of the water tower. This broadcasts a wireless signal for several miles providing access to those with a special antenna. This has enabled businesses to flourish and the community to stay connected and participate in distance education programs.

The normal cost for a project like this would be $3,000 for the dish and hardware, installation and site survey. To create the wireless signal there’s an additional cost of $10,000 for equipment and $17,000 for labor. But the generous grant from ADEC covered these costs and Chesterhill only pays a $400 monthly charge for the service which is shared between the library and city hall.

Dixon and Escovitz continue to connect communities in Ohio and are interested in expanding their efforts to other states. For a full recap of this story, visit http://freepress.net/news/15299.