Rural Missouri - August 2011 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Broadband for all F by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop rom my home just west of Jefferson City, I can connect to the world through a high-speed Internet service available to me and my neighbors. I can search for the latest news on electric cooperatives, stay in touch with friends on Facebook, find out how the Cardinals and Royals did last night or stream movies or other entertainment to my laptop. Just a few miles from my home, however, none of this is possible. That’s because a huge digital divide exists between rural people and their urban counterparts. And this situation is emerging as one of the key problems for rural people. Recently, a Rural Missouri staff member had a conversation with a businesswoman from the Ozarks whose business was struggling due to a lack of Internet service of any kind. Hosting an online store was not a possibility for her. In fact, she had to drive to the nearest town just to check e-mail. She wanted to know if her electric cooperative could do something to bring access to her part of the state. I have talked to farmers and other members who own small businesses who know high-speed Internet service could make a huge difference to the success of their businesses. In many parts of Missouri, rural telecom companies have done an excellent job of bringing high-speed Internet service to the countryside. But there are still many places in rural Missouri where Internet service is slow, unreliable or non-existent. Since their formation 75 years ago, the purpose of the nation’s electric cooperatives has been to provide reliable and affordable electricity and other services to improve the quality of life for rural people. With this in mind, Missouri’s electric cooperatives have taken an active role in the effort to wire the countryside for the digital age. In some unserved or underserved areas, electric cooperatives are assisting with Internet services. Others are watching these experiments to see if the business models will work for them. Still others are working to remove the barriers that otherwise would prevent broadband Internet from arriving. In many ways, this issue mirrors life in rural areas in the 1930s when cities had electricity and farms did not. Electric cooperatives raised the standard of living when they built a vast grid of lines that brought electricity to all who wanted it. As the job of wiring the countryside with fiber optic cable capable of supporting broadband Internet service moves forward, it makes sense that those wires would follow the same path the power lines take. With fewer people per mile in rural “Like electricity, access to high-speed Internet service in this digital age is a necessity, not a luxury. ” Barry Hart Missouri, installing fiber optic lines underground or installing new poles is uneconomical. That’s where your non-profit electric cooperative’s existing poles might make high-speed Internet possible. During the latest legislative session in our state, an amendment was introduced that would have removed many of the barriers standing in the way of broadband for all. Unfortunately, time ran out before this measure could be passed. We expect new legislation to be introduced in 2012, and I will keep you appraised of its progress. We may even ask you to get involved to ensure this important measure gets approved. Like electricity, access to highspeed Internet service in this digital age is a necessity, not a luxury. Rural people cannot continue to be secondclass citizens of the online community if they hope to prosper. While electric cooperatives must remain focused on their core business of providing electricity, they will do their best to be active participants in this effort to wire the countryside in a new way. Together, and with your support, we can make it happen! Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column There’s time for one more adventure here are so many wonderful destinations throughout the Show-Me State — from our major metropolitan centers of Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City to those beautiful rural settings that beckon us for float trips, hiking, horseback riding and so much more. Take some time for a great adventure in Missouri! Did you know that travel and tourism can be good for your health? Recent research finds that taking vacations reduces the risk of heart disease, depression and a host of other ills — and even slows the aging process. Common sense suggests that vacations are good for you, but science is now proving what we’ve probably known all along. We need to take more time for ourselves. Missouri tourism is an $11.4 billion industry that provides jobs for more than 280,000 people and $900 million in state and local taxes for our communities each year. The Show-Me State welcomed more than 35 million visitors in 2010. Tourism has a big impact on our T by Raeanne Presley state economy, and we are fortunate to have a variety of vacation options within a short drive. I would like to extend my personal invitation for you to come and visit us here in Branson. With more theater seats than Broadway, Branson’s 50 theaters offer more than 100 live shows featuring your favorite country, pop, swing, gospel, rock ’n’ roll, big band, magic and comedy acts. A trip to Branson is not complete without experiencing Silver Dollar City, our 1880s theme park where you’ll find authentic Ozark history along with crafts, eateries, six festivals and thrilling rollercoaster rides. A lot of rain this spring and high water levels had Branson and other locations in the news earlier this year. For now, the river towns of Kansas City, Lexington, Boonville, Arrow Rock, Rocheport, Jefferson City, Hermann, New Haven, Washington, Chesterfield and St. Louis are all high and dry and ready to show travelers a grand time. Canoe outfitters across the southern half of Missouri report that our world-class, floatable streams are “Tourism has a big impact on our state economy, and we are fortunate to have a variety of vacation options within a short drive.” Raeanne Presley AUGUST 2011 flowing at or slightly above normal levels. Here in Branson, all of our theaters, attractions and shopping areas are open for business, and Ozark Mountain visitors can fully enjoy our three pristine lakes, perfect for fishing and boating, as well as golf, hiking and horseback riding. Branson has more than 100 outlet stores and an array of specialty stores, boutiques and galleries at Branson Landing. Our historic downtown, with its cafés, antique stores and quaint shops, invites a leisurely stroll at a slower pace than city malls. So, take that end-of-summer trip and enjoy one last adventure in Missouri before the kids head back to school. Take a week or a weekend — there are lodging options ranging from value to luxury, no matter where you decide to go. No matter your budget or amount of time you have to travel, there is a destination right here in Missouri that will leave you feeling refreshed, energized, happier and more in touch with your family and friends. Presley is mayor of Branson. You can find tourism info at www.visitmo.com. 5 http://www.visitmo.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2011

Rural Missouri - August 2011
Comments
Columns
Stop and smell the barbecue
2011 Missouri Youth Tour
The fight on Bloody Hill
Missouri snapshots
Out of the Way Eats
Eight seconds to win
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Touring history
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - August 2011

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