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Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Boondocks broadband

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm if they can’t stream Netflix?

The Federal Communications Commission sent seven grants to Kansas totaling $4.7 million to expand  rural access to broadband internet.

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Increasingly Americans see fast internet as being more like a functioning sewer line, than a luxury. And to that end, a number of cities are trying to get into the internet provider business. But laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama wants to lift those restrictions.  Supporters of what’s known as municipal broadband can’t wait.

Aaron Deacon / Social Media Club of Kansas City

Google Fiber is scheduled to make a "special announcement" on Thursday, July 26, at 11 am CDT.