A Fit by Five and Then Some - from Yvonne
Smart Couple Online: Jack and Charmaine Yoest

Life in Rural America is about to Change

I promised you a SURPRISE today...and here it is:


Okay, that doesn't really qualify. Here's the real scoop: I don't make any secrets about receiving PR announcements now and then. When I use them, I acknowledge where the content came from. It's probably not generally known but for every ONE PR announcement I post, I have 10 or 20 others that I don't post about. Sometimes there isn't time, sometimes I don't feel connected to the topic.

Just the other day I received information about AT&T - an announcement that made me sit up and take notice. The reason I took the time to read the PR, was because this announcement said AT&T was taking broadband into rural America. The brought up thoughts of all the talk over the years about the "digital divide" - you know, where the haves (folks with the $$) were dominating technology, and the have-nots (people who didn't live in high-trafficked areas with easy access to broadband) were being left behind.

I'm one of the 'haves'. I've always had access to broadband. But, I know people who live in rural America who pooh-poohed the whole Internet thing for just so long - then, openly complained when they couldn't get it. To no avail. It just wasn't available.

Hurray for AT&T! That's what I thought. And still think. I think this bears announcing because it's a turning point. It's a way to disintegrate that digital divide. Yes, I can accept that not everyone cares about being on the Internet - lots of people thought phones and TV were conversation killers, too. But, in reality, computers and the Internet are vital additions to the American social scene - AND, they're more and more crucial to our educational system.

While it's true that you need a computer to access the Internet, but you don't need the Internet to have a computer, in America's schools, computers were little more than word processors or fancy calculators, before the advent of the Internet. Today, all aspects of the Internet (well, not all...let's leave gambling and porn out back under a rock, where they belong), are important connecting tools - bringing different cultures together in ways that weren't possible years ago.

But, in reality, computers and the Internet are vital additions to the American social scene - AND, they're more and more crucial to our educational system, today. It's only right that the technology be made available to everyone. So, I see this influencing more than just teenagers wanting to have a MySpace site, or chat on IM. I see this opening doors in rural America to help the Moms and Dads who still want that small-town, country-folk way of life for their families, still know that their kids will receive as good an education as any citified-kid in downtown ILOVEMYHOMETOWN, USA. Because, they'll be able to give their kids access to the universe of knowledge found on the Internet...in their own home, where their parents can monitor its use.

It just makes sense that today all aspects of the Internet (well, not all...let's leave gambling and porn out back under a rock, where they belong), are beneficial in a school setting. Computers and the Internet can give our kids a better understanding of the world they live in - the WHOLE world, not just one continent. Isn't that what blogs do - help educate folks? Well, without broadband connection, that knowledge is drifting off into - America's suburbs. AT&T is making it possible for everyone to have access. Listen up, this is how they're doing it:

Q & A with Claudia Jones, AT&T Spokesperson

Details the Availability of Project Lightspeed to Low-Income Households

1.) AT&T just announced a series of new initiatives that will provide consumers and businesses, regardless of income or location, with much greater access to advanced broadband networks and services in its 13-state local service territory. How exactly will this plan benefit those living in low-income and inner-city neighborhoods?

A: Because it will offer a competitive alternative to cable TV, whose rates rose by 86 percent from 1995 to 2004. AT&T is affirming its intent to makes its next-generation video services available – within three years as part of its initial deployment – to more than 5.5 million lower-income households, making them among the first in the nation to receive these new IPTV services.

2.) Who will benefit from today’s announcement and when can consumers and businesses in specific states expect to see the positive effects of AT&T’s investment?

A: Satellite-based broadband Internet access service will be starting later this month in selected rural markets throughout AT&T’s traditional 13-state residential service territory, most of which are not served by DSL or cable broadband services today. New deployments of WiMAX and other fixed wireless technologies will begin later this year in Texas and Nevada, joining existing AT&T fixed wireless service offers and deployments in Alaska, Georgia, and New Jersey.

3.) AT&T will also be bringing the benefits of broadband Internet access and IP-based services to more consumers and businesses in rural areas. How will increased access improve the lives of those living in traditionally hard-to-serve areas?

A: High-speed Internet access helps residents work more productively and efficiently and helps the community in its evolution to a high-tech town. With a high-speed connection, residents and businesses are better able to compete by having high-speed access to the Internet. Satellite and fixed wireless broadband technologies hold strong promise for delivering AT&T broadband Internet access services in remote, rural or hard-to-serve areas, many of which have no DSL or cable broadband service today. In the AT&T traditional local service area, these initiatives could help bring broadband Internet access to as many as 11.5 million additional homes and businesses.

4) AT&T has made a strong commitment to serve low-income neighborhoods and make sure that they have competitive access to emerging technologies. What is the philosophy behind AT&T’s dedication to this type of equality?

A: AT&T believes broadband should be widely available. The company has always been committed to serving its customers with video and has defined aggressive fiber network deployment plans to reach them. Again, AT&T is affirming its intent to make its next-generation video services available to more than 5.5 million lower-income households in 41 Project Lightspeed markets. Project Lightspeed will bring fiber closer to AT&T customers’ homes. More fiber in the ground, closer to customers, will make it possible for AT&T to provide new, next-generation Internet Protocol (IP)-based services over its existing network. These services will include AT&T Yahoo! High-Speed Internet, IP telephony (VoIP) and a new IP-based TV service called AT&T U-verse TV, allowing customers to enjoy features such as hundreds of television channels, movies on demand, electronic program guide, music and more.

But, wait...there's more! I was allowed to ask Claudia a few questions myself (you know me, I can't help butting in...). Read on to see what I asked and what Claudia answered...

Yvonne: This sounds like a positive move towards shrinking the 'digital divide' where low-income citizens often don't have access to the same technological resources their friends do. How will AT&T's access to broadband in rural areas work? Some folks may need a short tutorial on satellite - just a sentence showing the reliability of this technology.

Claudia: AT&T will begin the satellite-based broadband service in select rural markets this month, with potential additional market availability later in the year. Very simply, satellite broadband operates like satellite TV service, delivering a signal to a customer’s receiver to provide high-speed Internet service. So customers in rural regions who don’t have access to DSL or cable lines increasingly will be able to access broadband services for commercial or personal use.

Yvonne: Also, will it be scalable? Or, is it, "Here's your broadband..." at whatever upload and download rates AT&T provides?

Claudia: This service is designed to provide an effective and affordable broadband option for residential and business customers in areas that are not served by DSL or cable today. Customers will have three service packages to choose from, with prices ranging from $49.95 to $79.95 per month, and available broadband speeds up to 1.5 megabytes a second. The basic package delivers speeds that are about 10 times faster than dial-up access, which is the only service available for many rural customers today.

Yvonne: Also, in the news release you sent, I 'get it' but...the reasoning behind this venture comes across as a way for AT&T to make money. That's me (a woman) reading between the lines. Is there any way to soften that by actually mentioning the benefit of rural American families, like young women who are not close to home anymore needing help from Mom and knowing they can now get her online, instead of paying for a long-distance phone call. And, the thousands of home-based business owners who will now have the opportunity to live wherever they want, instead of being stuck in the city or a local suburb?

Claudia: AT&T is in the business of providing telecommunications services that make life easier, more productive -- and hopefully more satisfying for its customers. Services like satellite-based broadband service and other wireless technologies will ultimately enable people to live most anywhere yet be able to operate a business remotely --- as well as staying in touch with distant families and friends.


Now, watch for tomorrow's Smart Couple Online interview.


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tera gold

Progress remains slow, as it takes time to roll such things out. It's a long way from a headline announcement to a roofline satellite dish in a rural area.

Every step that allows more people in rural areas access is a step in the right direction.

Becky McCray

Thanks for going the extra mile and asking some questions for us. As you note, this is more than just a social issue, it's an education issue, and a huge economic issue. I live right in the middle of this.

Progress remains slow, as it takes time to roll such things out. It's a long way from a headline announcement to a roofline satellite dish in a rural area.

Every step that allows more people in rural areas access is a step in the right direction.

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