My brother in law works with 1st Broadband, a company that sets up wireless broadband internet infrastructures in rural communities where the big telco’s are unlikely to provide wired infrastructure any time soon. They’ve just kicked off their first project in Penwith in Cornwall, UK. I think these are great initiatives.
First of all they only start a project if a community is explicitly asking for it. So there is a lot of community effort behind these projects, and it is always amazing of what community initiatives can achieve with next to nothing to work with in terms of funding and material. The generation of that kind of energy is a benefit in itself, and something many companies might learn from. Second connecting villages to the internet positions them closer to the outside world. Not geographically of course, but as David Weinberger said in his book, nearness on the net is determined by interest.
This works in two ways. It reduces the villagers distance to outside sources of information, enlargening their scope of what the world is they live in. And also it reduces the distance of us to the village as well, possibly making these villages more attractive for us city dwellers to locate a business or do business.
The former, enlargening scope, based on research, is an important in improving independence and self sustainability of people and communities. The latter might help in turning around the trend of a slowly depopulating countryside because jobs are found elsewhere, leaving less and less people behind, until there are not enough people to sustain primary services like local schools, foodstores etc., which in the end kills the community entirely.
Now three villages in Cornwall have indicated they want to do this too.
And after all, if broadband is available in the countryside, it might even be possible someday to start living ‘outside’ and still enjoy all the connectivity I’m used to here in the city. 😉