BY STEPHANIE CARROLL CARSON
North Carolina is behind the times when it comes to broadband Internet, and rural communities without such access will find themselves economically crippled, according to a new report by communications experts. It says 57 percent of Tarheel state households have Internet speeds below minimum national standards.
The report by the Center for Rural Strategies says communities without broadband will be economically crippled, losing out on opportunities to those with high-speed connections. Dr. Sharon Strover put together the report. She says with a slow connection, even basic daily functions can put a business at a disadvantage.
"If you've ever tried to pull up a graphic image on a dial-up connection, you are waiting for a really long time. You are at just a huge disadvantage."
The report says having broadband may not mean a sharp increase in jobs in a region, but not having it will probably mean fewer jobs. Experts rank the U.S. 29th in the world in communications technology and slipping.
However, Strover says there are some encouraging signs. "The FCC and other federal agencies are taking this far more seriously. The money that the stimulus funding pumped into broadband should help."
The report identified tourism as one industry that can help spread faster Internet in beautiful but isolated areas, with the technology being used to develop new services and attract visitors.
The report, "Scholars' Roundtable: The Effects of Expanding Broadband to Rural Areas," is available at www.ruralstrategies.org.
Internet access speed information is available at speedmatters.org.
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