Fertile Ground: Lack of Broadband and Disinformation Proliferation

Focusing on infrastructure this week, The Verge published an article Monday about broadband distribution in the U.S., providing a tidy map denoting which counties are not adequately served by high-speed internet.

Do you see what I see? Because it looks really familiar, kind of like this somewhat more granular map published in USAToday:

There are exceptions to my theory, but on the face of it there’s a correlation in most states between broadband access and so-called conservative voters.

Look at these two excerpts side by side:

There may be another corollary, at least in Michigan: the areas with crappy to nonexistent broadband are the ones which were hardest hit by the third wave COVID because there are more anti-mask, anti-lockdown, ‘COVID’s a hoax’ residents on average. Here’s NYT’s national map of COVID hot spots from April 9 (sorry, I didn’t get a zoomed-in image of WI-MI at that time):

Wisconsin is not as obvious a challenge in this map but the lack of broadband and red voters correlates to COVID hot spot region in north Texas.

This map, published by State of Michigan a few weeks earlier into Michigan’s third wave COVID cases, also shows the correlation:

While there are some exceptions like Marquette and Keweenaw Counties (both of which may have been affected by student and faculty populations in state universities) in the Upper Peninsula, the hot spots tracked from March into May the areas with low broadband and red voters.

Do note the one small outlier county near the middle of Wisconsin — that’s Menominee County, which voted blue but has crappy broadband. It’s the least populated of all counties in the state but its roughly 4550 residents are more than 87% Native American. Which means there’s not enough profit for broadband providers, and no ethics or adequate legislation at either state or federal level obligating coverage.

This week’s map of vaccination uptake in Michigan as published by Mlive shows the effect of anti-vaxx disinformation. In spite of horrific case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths in the low broadband Trump-voting areas, vaccine uptake has been slow.

Note the yellow county at the right of the map along Lake Huron; this is in MI-10, an area so pro-Trump that its previous congressional representative retired rather than run for re-election. Also not served adequately by broadband. (Also ripe for manipulation by outside parties like banking and real estate investors; it’s through this county that the new pipeline for water from Lake Huron to Flint was run at considerable expense and time, in spite of the proximity to Saginaw’s water system to the north and Detroit’s to the south.)

Another layer to this onion is the lack of print news media, shown on this Knight Foundation national map:

While that Trump-voting Michigan county of Sanilac on Lake Huron has print media, there’s a correlation between other counties without adequate broadband and low vaccine uptake.

I can’t find a decent map showing broadcast TV and radio coverage but some of the same problematic counties are underserved — most definitely in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the upper portion of Wisconsin. There are concerns about how much of the state is served by Sinclair-owned television stations; they’re not as bad as Fox, but Sinclair owns far too much opportunity to push right-wing friendly content over publicly-owned airwaves.

Granted, there are some additional factors which shape the ideology espoused by persons who are slow to accept vaccination and reject masks. Some of these counties are extremely non-diverse, by which I mean more than 96% non-Hispanic white. Some are more than 55% male.

At least one of the counties in Michigan’s UP leans the other way because its population is older. Ontonagon County’s median age is 52.7 years while Sanilac’s median age is 43.

All of this is to say that the lack of broadband infrastructure serving Americans uniformly leaves them prey to disinformation about existential matters. If they aren’t getting information from a variety of media served up by broadband, AND they don’t have ready access to print media, AND they are likely underserved by broadcasters, they are ripe for whatever media is easiest to access including Facebook and other social media platforms on their cell phones.

~ ~ ~

Now here’s where it gets personal.

I have a family member who lives in a broadband desert, in a Trump-voting rural county. I thought of them immediately when Marcy wrote Radicalized by Trump: A Tale of Two Assault Defendants last week. This family member has written some things my kids won’t share with me (I’m not on Facebook and they are) because what this person has shared is so Trumpy and Qultish.

One of the two defendants Marcy wrote about blamed “Foxitis” for their radicalization. This isn’t the case for this family member because they live in a broadband desert. They may get digital broadcast but this means they aren’t exposed to Fox programming on cable. They don’t have cable, DSL, or wireless internet, only the data they purchase with their cell phone service.

This family member isn’t getting the newspaper, either; they’re not stupid but they’ve never been much of a reader.

Whatever is rotting their brain is coming through their phone, and my kids already know Facebook is one of the social media outlets this family member uses.

Fortunately this same family member isn’t prone to activism and has enough demands on their personal time that they aren’t likely to take off and go to rallies with other Trumpers and Qultists.

But we’re still looking at someone who views any messaging from the state government under Governor Whitmer and the federal government under President Biden with great suspicion and skepticism, to the point where they may resist measures intended to protect them, their family, and their community. The only information they’re getting about either state or federal government is through the filter of their limited social media.

I’m afraid this person’s mind won’t change until they have access to a lot more information from a much broader range of sources. Until they have cheap and easily accessible broadband, they’re going to be lost to disinformation and at continued risk.

This is bad enough — a family member who lives a couple hours away who I’ll have to write off as inaccessible for the near term because they have been poisoned by disinfo.

But this disinfo poisoning managed to affect my household directly.

Friends who are in agriculture suggested purchasing a side of beef soon as they expect meat prices to go up over the next few months. They recommended a processor in one of the counties which was hit hard by the third wave — a processor from whom we haven’t purchased before.

I suggested to my spouse that we try a processor up north who we’ve used in the past. They live in a very rural county which has fared a little better, and we’ve always liked their service.

When my spouse looked into placing an order, he was told they’d just lost two personnel who died of COVID and orders were backlogged.

How the heck do people who process meat for a country store in a county of less than 15,000 people end up dead of COVID?

What else may be hurting, possibly killing these people for lack of adequate, rational information?

I can’t be certain of anything except for not buying my beef there any time soon, and that country store’s location in a county indicated by blue denoting a lack of broadband.

118 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Still just heartsick about those folks who died of COVID in that tiny little berg with a population less than 1200. You know everybody in that little village knew them.

  2. P J Evans says:

    A lot of those dark-red counties in west Texas are rural, so the broad-band providers aren’t interested. (My parents got a small satellite dish through their phone and electric co-ops: they don’t have Big Phone and Big Electric in rural areas, either.)

  3. jerryy says:

    This may help you with the mapping issue: http://www.tvfool.com/
    You enter a location and it gives you a list of over the air broadcast stations in that area, as well as mapping capabilities. The F.C.C. also has that information, but you have to really dig to get it in a reasonable format for mapping, it could be that last guy in charge did not want anyone making the connection you are proposing. I recall they (the F.C.C.) were dragging their heels over getting broadband and net neutrality to underserved areas.

    You understated something, those areas without broadband also lack cable tv access (these go hand in hand) so a lot of folks do get their information from mailers and antenna tv. According to the handy wiki, there are over 200 FOX affiliates pushing out that information.

    • Rayne says:

      Want to point out there’s quite a bit of difference in content between a Fox affiliate which is broadcast, and Fox News on cable. If broadcast carried Carlson we could have shut his ugly racist yap already but cable doesn’t operate to the same standards as broadcast under FCC.

      • jerryy says:

        Oh certainly, but many of the local affiliates carry some of the Fox programming such as Fox News Sunday. It is like radio stations that carry (carried) programming such as the syndicated Rush Limbaugh shows, then put on other stuff around it.

    • Leoghann says:

      I grew up in the Permian Basin area of West Texas and SE New Mexico. Midland and Odessa, Texas are the co-capital cities of the “oil patch,” are wealthy cities, and have had 3-4 television stations (the major networks) since the mid-1950’s, and cable since the late Sixties. However, that area is 100 miles from the nearest other population centers, Lubbock & San Angelo, Texas. The nearest large urban centers are Fort Worth and El Paso, each 300 miles away. Because of this, the broadcast antennas of the stations in Midland, Odessa, and Lubbock are huge and powerful, to allow for antenna reception in the huge rural areas they serve. Some of the little oil towns in the area are relatively wealthy, and have had cable since the Fifties, but those only serve the actual residents of the towns. All of the rural residents depend on satellite services for internet and television, which are slow and expensive ($100-$200 per month for ~3 mps) or huge TV antennas, well-grounded to withstand lightning. If people want to augment those services, they have DISH or DirectTV service, at an additional $75-$150 per month. For families who can’t afford that $100-$350 per month for entertainment, there’s still an investment of several hundred dollars for one of those humongous antennas. Even the broadcast stations that have major network affiliation are in the extremely conservative to Trumpy range–as a kid, I was listening to “news” shows presented by the John Birch Society and their ilk. And, as Rayne pointed out, for many rural residents, the only affordable source of news is through the data service on their phones, which means Facebook and Twitter (or Parler and From the Desk of . . . ). Add to that the fact that the overwhelming number of community churches are Southern Baptist or independent evangelical. Information desert, indeed.

  4. ApacheTrout says:

    Broadband in rural VT is terrible, too. Coincidentally, rural VT is quite fertile Trump country. Hopefully, the availability of Starlink is about to test your theory, Rayne. Until this morning, I was paying $64 per month for 10 mbs DSL. Now I’m on Starlink, paying $100 per month for 120-250 mbs.

    Add in the new FCC emergeny broadband benefit of up to $50 per month (I don’t qualify), hopefully Starlink will be affordable to more people. Better still would be more competition from satellite based internet.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m really torqued off about Starlink. Who told Musk he could chew up our night skies with his satellites? Just so fucking irritating, was already bad enough trying to stargaze with the proliferation of satellites before Starlink. It’s also far too pricey.

      The other problem is the cost of Starlink when it wasn’t needed. Way back in 2002 there was an organization Northpoint Technology Ltd. which asked Congress for approval of its north-facing satellite dish-based internet. The technology could have covered the entire US with cheap broadband costing $20 a month. But two senators (IIRC it was Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) and Mary Landrieu (LA)), killed the approval process. I still want to know who the telecoms were that bought them off and killed cheap broadband. There was a patent dispute as well which I think was sketchy from the get-go; no idea why this concept hasn’t been revisited.

      • drouse says:

        I just spent some time plowing though that transcript you linked to. What triggered this was that north pointing satellite reception is impossible with a fixed receiver dish. My take away is that Northpoint was pitching Woo. At one point in the hearing Northpoint claimed that if they were awarded the spectrum they wanted(and it seemed like the whole hearing was a fight over how spectrum was handed out) they would be up and runinng within three years. And that tells me that they weren’t planning to build and launch their own satellites. Before SpaceX, launch slots were scheduled years in advance. The lead time of building the satellites alone would be longer than that. Taken all together, I think that their plan was to piggy back on other people’s hardware in geo-syncronus orbit. Which is probably why the operators of said satellites did their best to kill it.

        • Rayne says:

          I remember reading about access to satellites at the time; my impression was that Northpoint had intended to acquire access to the Iridium system which you may recall had gone into Chapter 11 and then been temporarily reprieved with federal funds, then eventually rebooted under a new organization. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridium_Communications

          You may think this was woo but the telecom industry has systematically preyed on any competition. There’s one more alternative which should have provided cheap broadband across the entire country. Ask yourself what happened to the 700-Mhz spectrum after Auction 73.

          • drouse says:

            Using the Iridium constellation certainly explains the north facing reference. Facing north is only possible to things in a polar orbit. However, the satellites that were in orbit at the time almost certainly unsuitable for broadband use. According to the Wikipedia article, those things had bandwidth in the low Kilobyte range with latency between roughly one and two seconds. So yeah, still woo.

            I certainly can’t contest the fact that the big Telecom players do their best to make sure any competition arrives stillborn. They just buy up the technologies they find useful and lobby the rest to death.

            • Rayne says:

              And yet your claim of woo in 2002 suggests wireless broadband using north-facing technology is highly possible right now.

              There are no excuses for our country’s failure to provide cheap, reliable, universal broadband when smaller developed economies are doing it for their people. Jesus Christ, Finland, with a population density comparable to six U.S. states ranging from Kentucky to Alabama, has had it for a decade.

              • drouse says:

                It’s not just possible, but that’s kinda of what Musk is doing with Starlink. Now days it is much easier to steer the focus of a stationary dish electronically than it was twenty years ago. If you look at pictures of a Starlink ground station, you’ll see that they are pretty much pointed straight up. That is so it can observe a maximum arc from horizon to horizon. As long as a satellite is “above” the dish’s horizon, a lock can be achieved. Musk decided on using high inclination orbits because it meant that any one satellite would stay above the horizon for a longer period, but it works for polar orbits too. As long as one member of the constellation comes up before the other one goes down, you’re good to go. Plus anything launched today would be designed with current(and hopefully future)bandwidth needs.

                • Rayne says:

                  We didn’t need Musk’s unilateral occupation of the skies. We needed to optimize the satellites we’ve already launched for civilian use and to use spectrum on earth which has been squatted on by telecoms to avoid providing service and competition.

                  • drouse says:

                    Not exactly unilateral. There were federal hoops to jump through and these are ongoing. He asked and the Feds said sure go ahead. So it’s not like he’s going rouge. And if you don’t like Starlink, you’ll just hate Bezo’s plan. He wants to put up a competing constellation that is triple the size of Musk’s. Between the two, if fully built out, will be near 100,000 peices of potential debis.

                    • Rayne says:

                      How convenient Musk’s first filing with the FCC wasn’t until November 2016.

                      Thankfully Bezos has been a lot slower getting traction with his program. It’ll give scientists enough time to rebut both programs’ utility.

                • bmaz says:

                  Starlink, and Musk, are shit. Every one of those pieces of trash should be shot out of orbit.

                  • ApacheTrout says:

                    I don’t disagree about Musk, but for those without adequate broadband, Starlink is a huge asset.

                    I know that astronomers and night sky photographers (amateur and professional) despise the satellites for their impact. I was a skeptic at first, but Fraser Cain over at Universe Today helped convince me that all is not lost. Perhaps these articles will alleviate concerns about Starlink.


                    • Rayne says:

                      Are you wrapping your head around how bad it is that our nation’s broadband policy rests on one flakey techbro’s vanity project? It’s not an asset — it’s desperation with a wee bit of fascism sprinkled on top.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Lol, Apache Trout is a longtime very good egg. But will not change my mind about Musk or his horrid Starlink enterprise. I stand fully with the IDSA as previously noted. There are better ways for more productive broadband availability than this garbage.

  5. Bruce Fuentes says:

    Here is a huge problem with the article in The Verge. Looking at it at a county level is extremely deceptive. I live in WI so we already know what the report says. I live in Douglas County in the extreme northwest. We have one major population center. That is the City of Superior. Superior has over 60% of the county population. They have adequate broadband, but are considering municipal broadband. Outside of Superior internet is hit or miss. I I’ve 13 miles from the city limits and pay for 10 Mbps and actually get about 8 Mbps. I know people that have 2Mbps and others that cannot get wired broadband at all. There are places in our county where the only phone company, Centurylink(the worst phone company in existence in my belief) does not even offer internet service.

    • Raven Eye says:

      When you dive deeper into the county level data, there can be an entirely different story. It’s all well and good to claim a county has broadband, but if that service is clustered in one or a few more densely populated areas, you could still end up with service to around half of the population. Former FCC chairman Pai was fond of citing national broadband coverage in terms of percentage of “something”. I really don’t know how he was measuring it, or even why, since he was working hard to shove the whole internet thing onto other agencies that the Trump administration was trying to diminish.

      The reach of terrestrial broadband (fiber or copper) is measured a mile at a time, and depends on the provider’s bottom line unless there is some other supporting funding source. If you are 1/2 mile past the last service point for cable or DSL, you’ll have to figure out how to get it on your own.

      And beyond the ability to get reliable information on current events, more and more essential services require internet access. Starting next month, the FCC will require an email address for applicants for some licenses. FEMA loves to talk about their post disaster web services (in areas where many homes and business don’t even have power). Some agencies only publish job vacancies online, and only accept online applications. A nearby city was practically having muscle spasms from patting themselves on the back: They came up with an evacuation map but you have to go online to see it. The most vulnerable are the least likely to get that message. In that case, access to broadband is the issue.

      But I suppose some things have improved. In 1995-98, the county I lived in had stretches along two state highways were there wasn’t even dial tone. If you needed to call 9-1-1 you had to hop in your car and drive some miles.

      • P J Evans says:

        Friend in Oregon is working with others in his area to get cable (fiber optic) in. They’ve gotten it under the main highway, which was the biggest part that had to be done before they can serve anyone at all. (They’re less than 10 miles outside Salem.)

      • Bruce Fuentes says:

        If our internet goes out I have to get in the car and drive down the road to call the phone company. We are in a cell coverage dead zone and have a metal roof. Our cell coverage comes through our internet. Before wifi calling, we had to have a microcell to get cell coverage, before that we just had no cell coverage at home. That will not improve because ATT is not going to build a tower just for us. Maybe when 5G comes here in 5-10 years that will get better. In the country we know we will never have phone and internet improvements unless it is mandated by the federal government.

        • P J Evans says:

          One year I lived in a house on Burbank BL, a major street in the San Fernando Valley, and was two blocks from a freeway. But I had to walk a quarter mile to get to a spot where I had cell phone bars at all: it was a dead zone.

          • bmaz says:

            Back in the early 2000’s I did work for a client that gave me a company cell phone. It was from a third rate carrier, but they used them because it had the “push to talk” feature. None of it was worth shit. And it did not work at all at my house. I once had to walk down the street and sit on a rock to do a call for them. My personal cell worked fine everywhere.

    • paulpfixion says:

      souptown represent! Greetings, Bruce. I moved away several years ago, but just want to tell you that I passionately hate centurylink as well. I was intrigued to see that Superior is debating municipal broadband, man I hope that passes. I see your point about the concern over county data being muddied, though I’m not sure Douglas County contradicts Rayne’s theory here. Superior, which has broadband access, and despite having shifted more trumpist in the past decade (my own feelings here, no data), it is still much more left leaning than the very red rural parts of Douglas County. Go be a fly on the wall at the Pump in Solon Springs some afternoon, yikes.

  6. punaise says:

    At the risk of coming across as a coastal elitist, its like “a series of rubes” according to Ted Stevens.

  7. Rapier says:

    Here is a classic anecdotal report which none the less is I think important. The classic part is: I know someone, who knows someone, who has gotten Starlink. They were in a total dead spot 30 miles from Grand Rapids MI. That is Musk’s space based ISP. They say it’s great but do experience outages. Teething problems says Starlink. Well we will see. It isn’t like Musk never overpromised Then too $100/mo ? and $600? install, well it ain’t cheap but soon enough most everyone in every last mile or damn close can have at least XX Mbps, or will know somebody close who does. A huge portion of this issue thus greatly improved.

    More information is only going to make things worse is my guess as 124 ex Admirals and Generals just signed onto the steal.

    • P J Evans says:

      I looked at the signatures (alphabetical order) and was relieved to see that my mothe’s cousin, a long-retired RADM, is not among them. (He retired and basically stopped using his rank.)

    • namekarB says:

      Sister in rural southwest Oregon has Starlink. She gets about 50 Mbps but as the satellites pass over the the horizon the link drops for a minute or two until the next Sat lines up. She is hopeful that more Sats will resolve the dropped connection. Also due to latency between user and Sat, video chats are pretty hit and miss with lots of “over” and “outs”

    • dude says:

      Is this Starlink the same one that my Subaru depends on? That only works correctly when you plug your cellphone into the car.

    • subtropolis says:

      “More information is only going to make things worse is my guess …”

      That’s certainly something to consider. I do tend towards Rayne’s point, that the paucity of *diverse* access in many places is a big contributing factor to the nation’s ignorance epidemic. But the introduction of mass communications anywhere has always brought with it the danger that bad actors will abuse it. It stands to reason that widening the availability of internet might open a firehouse of the same disinformation which is presently carefully metered due to expensive data plans.

      However, the key is *diversifying* that information, in addition to expanding the amount of it.

      That said, it’s clear that Facebook already has a powerful hold on a great many people. They have a huge number of members, obviously. What I mean is that, for a ridiculous number of people, FB is *the* prime gateway to the internet, both in the US and around the world. I worry that increased broadband access might not put a significant dent in that, given its hold on so many.

      “… 124 ex Admirals and Generals just signed onto the steal.“

      The same is currently happening in France, also. They’re complaining that Macron is giving in to the muslims too much, or some sorry crap. It feels rather fraught.

      But I’d thought that the US might avoid that kind of thing. It’s so disturbing that so many military and cops have debased themselves by sucking up to an obvious criminal, treacherous scumbag. Yes, debased. They are in thrall to a cowardly flag-humper. A pox on all of them, and their legacies.

  8. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    It’s possible that a fatter pipe, or any pipe for that matter, will still be used to carry content from people’s self-selected media sources. Internet access is really a human right at this point and any effort to expand broadband will benefit everyone; I just wonder if folks being served misinformation will broaden their information sources as a result.

    Musk should have worked with astrologists:


    There’s an anime called planetes set x years in the future where Earth is ensconced in space garbage and it’s their job to pick it up; worth watching if you’re into scifi and space garbage.

    • Ben Lau says:

      I’m not sure that access to broadband is going to make things any better because it’s not like the internet is full of verifiable sources. And links are just a bunch of one way pointers which don’t actually tell you anything about the veracity of the source. I often feel like all those library skills I picked up during hs/college by working for the school library around assessing source quality have been much more valuable in the modern world than I would have expected.

      I’ve been particularly enamored with this clip of James Burke talking about how the real problem here might be that everyone can essentially have their own truth “in the future” (we was talking about this back in 1985).

      But, ironically, the latest product of that way of doing things is a new instrument — a new system — that while it could make conformity more rigid, more totalitarian, than ever before in history, could also blow everything wide open. Because with it, we could operate on the basis that values and standards — and ethics and facts and truth — all depend on what your view of the world is — and that there may be as many views of that, as there are people.

      (More context for the video/text above)

      Also Planetes is pretty entertaining. :-)

      • Rayne says:

        “it’s not like the internet is full of verifiable sources” — you mean like government agencies or peer-reviewed studies? ~eye roll~

        I’d rather that family member in the broadband desert was flooded with sources than mainlining Facebook on their phone.

        I’ve only mentioned the problem of disinformation in low broadband areas. There are plenty of other reasons for ensuring broadband everywhere. I didn’t even begin to touch on our nation’s problems made more obvious by a pandemic, like the lack of uniform access to remote education for K-12 and university students forced to remain at home, let alone essential workers who could work from home if they had broadband but don’t.

        • Ben Lau says:

          Sorry, didn’t mean to imply there were no verifiable sources, it’s just that they feel like a tiny fraction of all the content and having the verifiable stuff bubble up to the top is it’s own challenge (see Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” 1945). Most things feel like advertising or content farms or the crazy rantings of various folks (I include my own website in that category :-) ).

          I don’t think people are necessarily going to do anything more than just mainline Facebook but now on their broadband. Honestly by 1997 standards (I was still using some kind of modem at home) phones are broadband. I even use my phone as temporary broadband when my primary provider is having issues. The vast majority of news and such are still text sources so it’s not like you need a ton of bandwidth to consume them. There’s tons of great video content on youtube (some of which is even actually educational) but there’s also a ton of crap (for some reason youtube the last couple of weeks has decided that I really need to watch some video about how the US govt has been covering up the fact that COVID-19 really escaped a lab in China).

          But maybe this has always been the case? Wasn’t it Newton Minow who said:

          When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

          (didn’t realize it was the 60th anniversary of this this week, ran across this interview with him from WTTW)

          I don’t disagree that the pandemic has exposed a lot of issues with the uneven deployment of broadband and the opportunities that were taken away from large swaths of the population because of that. In the education space I think the attempt to replicate the existing “butts in a seat” education paradigm but over video conference was a terrible idea, but I’m not sure what else could have been done. Computer mediated instruction is something that people have been trying to develop for many years. Systems like PLATO were attempts early (1960) at this. More modern attempts are things like Khan Academy or I guess any of those pay learning platforms like Skillshare or Coursera (and there are a myriad of alternatives). Having worked in the education tech field for many years (simulation for task and foreign language training) and watching my mom teach in public and private school (visual arts which was an extra challenge during the pandemic) has often been frustrating.

          If you’ve never read it you might find John Taylor Gatto‘s “Dumbing Us Down” about the public school system interesting. And along side it I found Todd Oppenheimer’s “The Flickering Mind” a good assessment of some of the challenges with educational technology.

          • bmaz says:

            “The vast majority of news and such are still text sources so it’s not like you need a ton of bandwidth to consume them.”

            As Rayne would say, I am not sure what drugs you are on, but send some over here.

            • Ben Lau says:

              Am I horribly out of touch? (Probably ;-))

              I consume almost all of my news through textual sources like this blog, Progress Pond, Talking Points Memo, and slashdot?

              I haven’t watch TV news regularly for over a decade now because the time spent watching vs amount of news content seemed really poor. That’s one of the things I really appreciate about EW… the deep dives into the details. And it’s one of the things I deeply miss since groklaw shut down (doing similar things to EW but with a focus on tech/law).

              • bmaz says:

                I am a bit cynical, but, for a variety of reasons, I have to monitor a lot of news off the net. This site is mostly unique in that we do not have ads of any kind. It does not take long for ads, whether static, pop-up or video to ruin your experience. Even when you “subscribe” to a place, it doesn’t stop.

                • rip says:

                  Most of us have learned to use various controls and blockers so unwanted advertisements and images/videos aren’t displayed unless we request them. The better blockers actually stop the requests for the unwanted content to be denied – freeing the bandwidth.

                  In my minor attempts I use the uMatrix/uOrigin and PrivacyBadger within Firefox. I’m sure there are more and better ways.

                  For me it’s not the bandwidth but the tracking/privacy stealing that is happening.

              • rqila says:

                Thank you for those news-source suggestions! I have been wishing to broaden things out a bit and when I try it’s hard to get traction; this will help.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              LOL. Outside of this site, I often have to hunt for textual descriptions. Visual replacements for news and views spread like the Blob, consuming everything in its path. As for accurately captioned photos, fuggedaboutit, even from such august sources as the Guardian.

  9. namekarB says:

    Much as I detest Elon Musk and his proliferation of low earth orbit satellites for internet, it is my opinion that this is the solution for internet access across the globe in areas without high speed internet. Consider that if the USA instead of spending billions of $$$$ in the Mideast just handed out cell phones with solar chargers to everyone and which had access to satellite internet, within a single generation kids would be watching Dancing with the Stars, Afghanistan Idol and ordering off Amazon. Religious extremism would just fade away.

    I’m wondering if I can get the first Starbuck and McDonald franchise there

    • Rayne says:

      Dude. Seriously, quit smoking or share whatever it is you’re on. Don’t kid yourself, you’re not funny.

      How the hell do you think we get firsthand reports from the Middle East when there’s conflict or catastrophe? Like the explosion in Beirut last year as just one example.

      As for Starbucks and McDonald’s — Starbucks had 600 stores across the Middle East and North Africa as of last summer. McDonald’s has an even bigger footprint; you’d have stiff competition to acquire a franchise, and you’d have to learn how to handle and serve halal food.

      Now go find some something productive to do besides mental masturbation in American colonialism.

    • P J Evans says:

      What’s driving some of the America hate in the Middle East is stuff like “Dancing with the Stars” (and the glam talk shows). I don’t know where you’ve been for the last 30 years, but they have TV, and phones, and internet, and a good news service called Al Jazeera.

      • bmaz says:

        They, to some extent, think we are a bunch of gaudy heathen loons. Might be right to some extent, but I will accept that mantle. Now, if you could get every child and family in Cuba a free and open internet….

        • P J Evans says:

          Certainly some people here are gaudy heathen loons. Unfortunately they seem to be the ones the media like to notice. (It’s nice to find out that Jenner is getting about 6% support in the recall. Didn’t think most people would buy whatever it is she’s trying to sell us.)

          • Rayne says:

            I hope Jenner is squashed like a bug at the polls. She’s a Trojan Horse intended to undermine the rights of trans citizens as well as the rest of the LGBTQ+ spectrum which all rely on equal application of human rights protections.

  10. d4v1d says:

    Rayne exquisitely points out the correlation/causality paradox in this post. Is the reason for broadband deserts a problem of push (if you build it they will come) or pull (demand)? And if you push (infrastructure) *can* they access this new tide of information and disinformation, and if so, cognitively process it? A reasonably good piece of equipment such as a pc, tablet, or laptop is likely a luxury purchase for large chunk of the population. Tis a very big muddle.

    • bidrec says:

      Some internet providers will throw in a PC if a customer signs up for internet service. Citizens Telecom of Marathon, NY did this.

    • P J Evans says:

      They use smartphones. Or maybe Kindles. Tablets aren’t as expensive as some smartphones – or some sneakers!

  11. bg says:

    Internet school and internet legislatures and Zoom, etc., really brought the issue of access to the fore. Biden is trying very hard to convince those who intend his failure that internet is infrastructure. Which it is of course. I recall one of the OK Senators was complaining about his poor internet service, but of course I think none of this will be convincing for the POT, formerly known as the GOP. The Dine (Navajo people) delivered AZ to Biden, and in AZ-NM many of them don’t have access to running water, which in poor, extremely rural, and multi-generational homes contributed to the spread of COVID, an additional cruel burden shared by many Native communities across the (stolen) land. Even in cities, there are millions who can access the internet only through their phones because the cost is prohibitive. There was a fair amount of news coverage showing students accessing the internet outside public buildings, and I should know more about the legislation NM passed about broadband access in our poor and rural state. Our legislature was accessible by Zoom for the first time, and the working poor some whom are part of organized groups were able to give testimony for the first time on their phones during their work breaks, which was compelling. I think this will be a permanent feature in coming years. We do of course have a lot of rural red counties who refused the mask mandates and etc., and who are lagging in vaccinations as well, but the Navajo Nation is near herd immunity now. However it can happen, internet access needs to be everywhere, affordable and accessible.

  12. Buford says:

    Living in Rural Colorado, where cell service is spotty at best, we now have fast internet service via the local Electric Co-op…it was not easy to do…we had to first vote to repeal the Cable Monopoly Act…long story, but we were successful in that the copper cable was severed, and replaced with a non-profit Co-op….DSL was never any good…Fiber, baby, it is the only way to go…as for Elon Musk and his space ventures, not all of them are worthy of praise, nor are they all going to be perfect….but I have to admit, he is moving things forward in ways I never imagined…

    • Raven Eye says:

      And aerial fiber can have physical characteristics that make it superior to copper in places where there are hazards like trees falling down. And that’s not even touching the huge increase in bandwidth and the need for far fewer inline amplifiers.

  13. Herb de Bray says:

    I think a lot of the land system needs millions of cell towers. On the other my second thought is that Musk, Space X billionaire, and Bezos, the other, Blue Horizon, have the power to change Starlink technology to make it more fluid, accessible, reliable, and less expensive. Two providers or one amalgamated is imagery in my mind.
    This is my first comment, but maybe not my last. You people are just too sharp, but I admire Marcy Wheeler and have been reading this blog for years.

    • Rayne says:

      The lost opportunity for broadband distribution: wind turbines. Every time I drive through one of the broadband deserts here in Michigan and I see wind turbines towering over the terrain, I think about femtocells co-located on those towers.

      Ditto the old analog TV distribution system which carried 700 MHz spectrum.

      Welcome to emptywheel.

      • bmaz says:

        I’ll join Rayne in welcoming you.

        However, I not just think, but know, that the International Dark Sky Association takes an extremely dim (no pun intended) view to the charlatan Musk’s efforts to pollute every inch of the earth’s above atmosphere with satellites. And for good reason, it is a fucking menace. Build out regular infrastructure and quit relying on self promoting assholes like Elon Musk to save the world, they will destroy it instead.

        A friend is a director at IDSA, and they do incredible work. Musk, on the other hand, is a menace to the world. And, as previously stated, a complete asshole. Shoot Musk and his jackass Starlink satellites into the sun.

        • P J Evans says:

          I saw a couple of photos yesterday taken at the McDonald observatory in far west Texas. Both showed some of those satellites crossing the image. They’d shoot Musk and his satellites into either the Sun or Jupiter, no question: it’s ruining their work.

        • MB says:

          Astronomers, both amateur (me) and professional are extremely disturbed by the “side effects” of this project. The IDA is doing great work in establishing standards for light pollution and encouraging small towns and cities to comply with them, such as the color temperature of public lighting and using properly-designed fixtures to point the lights downward, the area where the light is intended anyway, instead of pointing in all directions. Unfortunately I live in LA, a city way too big for their work to have any effect here. In the last 10 years, there’s been an epidemic of replacing the old super-bright mercury vapor streetlights with new and even brighter LED streetlights. Price of progress?

          • P J Evans says:

            The townhouses next to my apt bulding where they have lights on the end walls (because walkway), and the lights are large, bright, and not hooded, so they shine everywhere including down. (I sometimes want to sneak over there with a can of black paint and cover most of the thing so it’s going down.)

    • P J Evans says:

      In L.A. they’re putting small cell-phone “repeaters” (boosters) on top of light poles. (They’re also putting electric-car chargers on utility poles.)

  14. BobCon says:

    Another piece of it is our public news systems — NPR and PBS — are really weak.

    Like a lot of other things, the right has put a lot more thought into how to drive the debate on public broadcasting, and as a result have gotten systems that are interested in presenting major issues — Covid, democracy, climate — as political games instead of life and death matters with clear right and wrong sides.

    Liberals need to think through a strategy for reframing the news business, and begin applying those methods to public broadcasting. And I think a lot of it will come down to finding a new generation of leadership for NPR and PBS who get that trying to be another version of the NY Times won’t work.

    Some local affiliates do great work, and really understand how to connect to their audiences. But the closer things get to the national leadership, the worse the news gets, and the more disconnected and abstract the coverage becomes.

    • Rayne says:

      Meh. I don’t think NPR and PBS are supposed to be anything more than backstops, operating as they are as nonprofits.

      If liberals need to do anything it’s figure out how to construct new business models for journalism which are independent of any government aid, not that NPR and PBS receive much any more as a percentage of their operating income since GOP’s congressional caucus has systematically undermined public broadcasting.

      To wean itself from government funding — and the political battles that accompany it — NPR began courting advertisers. Ad money was projected this year to pass station fees as its largest source of revenue, accounting for just over a third of its $275 million annual budget. Nowadays, the federal government directly contributes only about 1 percent of its operating money.

      (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/npr-may-be-public-radio-but-its-feeling-the-economic-pain-of-the-pandemic-more-trouble-lies-ahead/2020/07/21/8f08958a-c6a4-11ea-a99f-3bbdffb1af38_story.html 21 JUL 2020)

      What’s really annoyed me: the lack of vision within the biggest for-profit print news organizations like The New York Times and Washington Post. Both of them continue to rely on print which is far more expensive than handing out a ruggedized tablet to their subscribers. IIRC printing and its distribution has been more expensive than the rest of the news production process since roughly 2008=2010, while the cost of tablets has cratered in that time. It would be cheaper to simply hand a subscriber a tablet than to deliver print copies. Use the savings on more and better news production.

      What’s also annoyed me: the inability of some well-meaning billionaires to get their shit together and work as a collective to buy newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the McClatchy chain of papers. Patrick Soon-Shiong shouldn’t be stuck out there by himself with the Los Angeles Times in order to prevent yet another vulture VC from swooping in and “liberating” cash while starving the news operation.

      • BobCon says:

        If I thought All Things Considered et al were at least providing a semi-decent news source, I’d be with you, but at this point I think they’re actively harmful. Not at the point of Fox, to be sure, but on a par with the typical local TV news broadcast in terms of dragging down the debate. I think they’ve gotten that bad

        At any rate, the standard bit from NPR and PBS about independence from federal funding is really disingenuous, and I wish they would stop.

        The way it works is that the feds provide member stations with heavy funding which then gets passed on to the national networks. It would be like a defense subcontractor pretending they’re not getting paid by taxpayers because technically the money is coming from Raytheon. We have right to demand a lot more for what we’re paying than what we’re getting.

        • Rayne says:

          One. Percent. That’s it. I don’t know why you are so hung up on the federal funding. The content is likely shaped by moving toward a more commercial model, and that’s the trade off.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            Rayne, the only news source accessible from the house my grandparents built in rural Benzie County (northwest LP) has been NPR. We could occasionally get flickers of Green Bay network TV from across Lake Michigan, but that was only by using improvised antenna that blew over every time there was a storm. (No broadband unless we drive six miles into town and park at the library.) So while I agree generally with your points about public broadcasting, when it’s THE news, its both-sidesism matters.

            • Rayne says:

              Public broadcasting = backstop. That’s what you just described when NPR is all you can get. Unfortunately we’ve allowed the so-called conservatives to bully the nation into pulling federal funding for what should be fully funded. That’s what needs to be fixed along with pervasive broadband. Then perhaps we’ll have more than one NPR station for more perspective.

              And yeah, I feel you about the dearth of broadcast out in Michigan’s boonies. Way outside Marquette at my folks’ place we could rely on Green Bay but not Marquette’s WLUC even though it was hundreds of miles closer. Only during certain weather conditions could we get Marquette (gods help me but it never seemed to be when we were cooped up inside on rainy days bored out of our skulls). Closest library was a hair-raising drive 30 miles way. Broadband within a 10-mile drive depended on the business fortunes of a local mom-and-pop store, a laundromat, and a sketchy hotel — never seemed to have it more than 2 years in a row, and it depended on weather conditions as well. We lost it a couple years ago because the trees in the sightline of the microcell grew just tall enough to obstruct signal. ~sigh~

      • subtropolis says:

        I don’t think that you’ve thought through that tablet idea. Are you seriously picturing a NYT tablet? How about one from WaPo, too? LA Times, Boston Globe, Miami Herald … That’s not going to work.

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t need to think any further about it. The smart news organization will provide one that’s agnostic, neutral — like a Kobo eReader — preloaded with its own app and at a steep discount to the print edition. If the user wants to pick up more than just their news, good for them but they’re first to the post and have weaned off a print customer.

          WaPo already has an opportunity to work with its owner’s preferred tablet, Amazon Fire, and it’s not doing it. Utterly stupid.

          Once the news outlet converts users away from print they have access to data they couldn’t acquire before to determine what content is preferred, what makes it effective, etc. They could offer to monetize the data with users’ consent with another discount to the user. All of this they can’t do so long as they continue to push print editions.

      • posaune says:

        Rayne @ 1:44pm
        I recently took a continuing ed course, which in past years had 6 books of texts and testing. This time, they handed out free new tablets with downloaded the the course materials.

        • Rayne says:

          It’s about damned time. I’d done research for a corporation during GWB’s administration about digitized coursework; at the time, the Paris, France school system was handing out flash drives with software and e-textbooks to their students instead of physical texts. More than a dozen years and a pandemic later, education in the US is beginning to catch up to that model.

        • bmaz says:

          This is cool. You get to keep the tablet, or return it? For my CLE there are no longer printed materials, you just download it all.

  15. greengiant says:

    Since the 80s or so the stereotype rural resident has satellite TV like DirectTV. So resistant to change they would not get hearing aids my relatives had the sound turned to maximum while tuned to worst of Fox cable all the hours they were awake. I know people in urban areas also use satellite TV because it is cheaper than cable.
    Not the multiplicative effect of social media bubbles the propaganda was reinforced the old way by person to person contact.

    • Rayne says:

      My folks are DirectTV subscribers when they are up north in the boonies. Cell phone and other internet service is nonexistent but they can still get the same TV they get when they are south in Florida. They skip local news because they can’t get any digital TV signal where they are. They end up getting email and Facebook updates when they can visit friends an hour away where their cell phones have service.

      It’s a mixed blessing when I visit them up north. No pesky spam emails and texts, but too much HGTV watching with my mother, and no way to call for help except for the landline which occasionally goes out when there’s bad weather.

  16. gmoke says:

    You know, of course, this is a double-edged sword (at least). Broadband access will also enable greater access to 4chan, 8kun, and the whole broad sewer of disinformation, misinformation, and innuendo that helped give us Trmp.

    Still and all, I recall in the dim, dark days of the beginning of the Internet explosion that telcos were given loan guarantees to wire up the whole of USAmerica to Al Gore’s Information Superhighway. I wonder what happened with that. And I believe that providing access to the Internet is essential to build a real future, even if it includes too much sewer sludge and too many diabolical liars.

    • Rayne says:

      If they have better access to 4chan and 8kun, they have better access to pr0n. Which poison would you choose if you’re lonely and stuck in the tulies?

      • gmoke says:

        You have a point but you’re fooling yourself too. Expansion of access to the Internet is expansion of access to everything on the Internet. Might as well recognize that reality ahead of time.

    • BobCon says:

      One thing to consider is that Fox — and now increasingly networks like OANN — get the bulk of their money from payments from cable companies. Tucker Carlson brings in very little ad money for Fox, but as long as Comcast and Verizon send Fox billions, Fox doesn’t care,

      Breaking the link between cable TV and broadband so that people would be forced to choose to subscribe to Fox News — and now outfits like OANN — would be a positive step. It would also obviously hurt CNN and MSNBC, but I still think that is a net positive. They’re all used to passively getting a chunk of the cable TV pie. National broadband takes these kinds of sweetheart deals out of the hands of a few cable execs.

      • P J Evans says:

        That’s probably how sports of all kinds make profits: the cable deals. Certainly they reach more people than can fit in the seats.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    MTG gives Matt Gaetz a run for his money as a do-nothing, know-nussink performance artist. She keeps trying to pick a streetfight with AOC – calling her chicken for not being braaaave enough to debate the MAGA queen. Sadly for MTG, she has no idea what sort of bear she is poking with her stick. AOC dismissed MTG’s most recent effort – shouting at AOC on the House floor and daring her to knock the battery off her shoulder – by virtually calling her white trash: “I used to work as a bartender. These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time.”


    • Tom says:

      How do you have a debate with someone who refuses to be grounded in reality? Even if AOC were to debate MTG, MTG would just claim victory no matter what points either party scored. It would just be a repeat of The Big Lie on a debate scale. If I were AOC, I might be inclined to tell MTG that I’m too busy with my committee work to have time to debate, and let that sink in.

      Given Joel Greenberg’s recent plea deal and the implications that may have for Matt Gaetz, I suspect MTG is desperately looking for some way to rebrand herself in the public eye as AOC’s Nemesis rather than the BFF of possible Sex Trafficker Matt Gaetz.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Exactly. Anyone debating Greene would give her standing and credibility her actions do not deserve. And MTG would conduct it bad faith, as another engagement for her performance art.

  18. Wm. Boyce says:

    We can trace the lack of broadband infrastructure back to the 80’s, when telecoms were deregulated, another bad idea brought to us by Mr. Reagan’s goons. The journalist David Cay Johnston has documented in a book how the telecoms duly promised to build out the broadband cables of the time in exchange for deregulation of the industry. But government didn’t follow up and all that new money ended up in shareholder’s pockets instead. Another lie enabled by a Republican administration.

    And what lapsed in 1987? The Fairness Doctrine, which compelled some balance in opposing opinions on radio and television. When Rush Limbaugh premiered his show in 1989, he didn’t have worry about lying or extreme opinions, as long as he didn’t use one of the seven forbidden words that would get a station’s license lifted.

    Finally, we have the well-known Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Facebook, Google, et al can’t be sued for libelous or false advertising, as any newspaper or other conventional media would be. That would put a real crimp in their revenues if fairness and accuracy were ways to stay out of court.

  19. Matthew Harris says:

    What I am about to say is something that has caused people to react with annoyance in the past, but I still feel I should say it.

    The percentage of the US population that lives outside of urban areas and access to services is fairly small. As in, less than 10%.

    The USDA actually has a classification called “Frontier and Rural”, the population that lives further than one hour from a metro area. In 2010 (the last year that they released numbers), it included 12 million people–or about 4% of the population at the time. The thing about this population is that many “rural” states had tiny amounts of their population in that category. For example, no one in Ohio lives further than an hour from a metropolitan area.

    There are some very rural parts of states like Texas or Georgia, but those parts are not the parts where most people live. The FAR population of them is both under 2%. Michigan, for an Eastern state, has a big percentage of people in FAR areas, but it is still under 9%.

    Most of Trump’s support comes from people in suburban or exurban areas, not rural areas, just because the most rural parts of the country—don’t have a lot of people. Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are more than the electoral votes of Utah, Idaho, Montana and both Dakotas combined. And Ohio’s republican votes don’t come from a few farm communities—they come from the suburbs of the big cities.

    The average Republican voter isn’t someone so isolated that he doesn’t know racism is bad. The average Republican voter lives in a suburb/exurb, and has full access to modern technology and modern media—and just uses it in the worst way possible.

    • Rayne says:

      Looking at the home locations of the conspirators who plotted to kidnap, “try,” and murder Governor Whitmer to see if they lived in areas of limited broadband and broadcast media, I know at least two of the 13 men arrested live not in counties ID’d as broadband deserts, but in areas which are underserved within rural counties. (I must have driven by one of their homes numerous times on trips north; I know with certainty there’s jackshit for broadband there.)

      One of the three Michigan men arrested for the January 6 insurrection was from part of Michigan’s broadband desert.

      Let’s not forget the Michigan Militia folks who were involved in or in some way related to the Oklahoma City bombing were from a part of Michigan in that broadband desert located along Lake Huron. Those militia folks are still there, just below the radar.

      You may think those “Frontier and Rural” 4-9% aren’t worth serving, but among them are some of the most likely to violently act against the U.S. and its government. Their propensity to violence is goddamned expensive.

      • Matthew Harris says:

        I think we might be talking about different things.

        I just checked on the biography of the Michigan Militia, and almost all of them seemed to have come from suburban Michigan. From what I can tell, these are where they were living around the time of the arrests:

        The leader, Joseph Morrison, was in Munith, in Jackson County, an exurban area outside of Detroit and Lansing.
        Adam Fox was living in Grand Rapids, a large city.
        Ty Garbin was in Wyandotte, in Wayne County, right outside of Detroit.
        Barry Croft was in Delaware at the time of his arrest
        Kaleb Franks was from Oakland County, so from the Detroit metro area
        Daniel Harris was also from Oakland County, so also Detroit metro
        Brandon Caserta, I can’t find information on
        Pete Musico was also from Jackson County, an exurban area
        Shawn Fix lived in suburban Wayne County
        Eric Molitor lived in Wexford County, in Northern Michigan, which is a strongly rural area.
        The Null brothers were from the suburbs of Grand Rapids.

        To me, it seems like most of the Michigan Militia were from areas ranging from urban to exurban.

        I never said the 5% or so of people in the United States in Frontier areas weren’t serving. What I said is that people like the Michigan Militia are not part of that 5%. The 5% of the population living in Frontier and Remote areas is a pretty diverse lot. New Mexico and Hawaii, both majority minority states, both have a higher percentage of people living in areas like that then Michigan does. Mississippi also has a high percentage of its population living in FAR areas, and most of that population is African-American.

        The problem is that “Rural” is a shibboleth, especially in the Eastern US. Someone can live in a suburb a short drive from a large city, including a large city with educational and cultural institutions, but being “Rural” is a big part of their self-identity.

        • Rayne says:

          Dude. Don’t lecture a UP-born Michigan resident about the Michigan Militia; I’ve literally shared corporate work space with folks who identified themselves as militia here. What you see now in your combing isn’t the same iteration that blew up the Oklahoma City federal building. Their heirs, however, are still out there in the Thumb region of Michigan’s lower peninsula, along with at least 28 other patriot/anti-government/militia groups sprinkled widely, represented only in part by the co-conspirators arrested for planning to kidnap the governor.

          I also know that among the names you want to label “exurban” are people who are in rural areas not served by broadband. I’m not sharing any more details than saying I’ve driven by their locations and I know with absolute certainty this is the case.

          It’s not just a matter of getting broadband to serve these cretins. It’s about serving their entire family so that the family has a fair crack at reality-based information to change seditious cretins’ minds.

        • Eureka says:

          I really wish I had more time for this but the definitions you’re relying on, following USDA, are flawed if you want to consider which and how many Americans actually live rurally, and to whom this post might apply [compare the discussions here ripping Verge for their cutoffs and county-wide operationalization of coverage. Their mapping, like any dependent upon county-level data, vastly underidentifies “rural” (or in their case “broadband-lacking/having” at = 15% ) folks and doesn’t track with reality.] It doesn’t make people and their problems go away to simply define them out of the discussion for the sake of an argument.

          Since you’re picking on the east, and re-defining “rural” to be Frontier and Remote (FAR) zip code areas: anyone that knows anything about, e.g., NY can tell you that FAR map is full of shit (what statistical sleights of hand must be used to, e.g, combine municipalities to be able to claim “within 60 minutes” from a 50k+ metro). Many who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of an accident or other medical emergency in much of that “non-FAR” map could report just how long and “far” that trip to emergency services goes — once EMS or other help could be so-summoned in the first place.

          I could also make this comparison _within_ so-called USDA “metro” counties — as contrasted with the “nonmetros” where a greater number of rural heathens may be vaguely acknowledged to live per still-flawed definitional standards — but instead will contrast two “metros”.

          One, in significant part, has public transport, readily accessible travel throughout the eastern seaboard if desired or affordable, historically early access to broadband, early access to multiple broadband choices, etc. (Of course this contrast requires blowing off the distant and rural parts of that metro without such, but fine).

          Another large “metro” county — “the same thing” per USDA’s definitions — has no such public transportation, many fewer parts that got earlier (but not ear_ly_, like the other metro) broadband, little-to-no broadband competition, and more of what I would call, by any definition, “rural” area.

          I mean if your nares fill with silage decomp and you have no broadband and it’s a hike to the store and your mail comes rural route and you can hunt in your back yard and you’ve got certain types and patterns of zoning / land-use requirements, is _that_ rural?

          I’m getting the impression that this 4% business is a set up to some “Rural Mystique”, a rare and pure “noble savage” idea of rural. In my view that’s the worse of the shibboleths. I’ll give you things like the fake goat farms-on-paper in NJ which pols, especially, seem fond of setting up for residency and tax breaks (and perhaps using to hijack a colocated concept of “rural”), but that might be better considered the head of another monster.

          • Eureka says:

            ^ the system mistook my less/greater than symbols as html coding and wiped them. That should read ~ “at less than versus greater than or equal to 15%”

            Adding, generally:

            …and this isn’t even getting into how poverty or other poordom extends distance by miles, rendering access to definitional services fairly intractable in the rural areas of probably most so-called metros which have them, even leaving “non-metros” and “FAR” areas aside. “Within 60 minutes” as to non-FAR is quite a privilege in many ways. And we’ve not even considered the treacherous weather or related hazards! What a bunch of horse-hockey framing — especially if the goal is to solve what we know to be more widely applicable problems.

  20. Raven Eye says:

    The whole discussion about infrastructure is lost on the MAGA bumper sticker crowd because they’ve been told that this isn’t the government’s job – free markets and user fees are major elements of the “answer”…As long as you ignore the warning that the real anarchists are billionaires.

    For America to be globally competitive we need to start thinking, like the Finns, that internet access is a right. And added to that would be effective and affordable health care, a robust public education system that is considered an investment, a strategically managed supply chain, etc. But of course, all of those things are already in the pipeline (not ignoring Colonial) or are being delivered this very minute through the free markets and user fees.

    But to the main topic, I’m still not settled on the relationship between lack of broadband and the actions of RWNJs. In my (red) county in Oregon, we show up on the Verge map with 65% of households (which is a pretty good number) having broadband access. And this in spite of some long winding roads to nowhere and spotty or no cellular coverage in some areas due to terrain. Broadband is on the valley floor, but some users can only get wireless internet, some DSL, and some just plain SOL.

    But back to the local 65%; we have more than our fair share of RWNJs. I’m not sure about Proud Bois, but there are certainly Oath Keepers around here. Open carry is not uncommon, and all my Hawaiian shirts are now in a box in the basement. There are plenty of anti-vaccers or later-vaccers (one that I know who now has Covid). We have a state university and a decent library system. These folks have almost all of the information in the world literally at their fingertips. But they make a conscious and consistent effort to ignore factual information sources.

    This country needs good broadband coverage. But for many broadband has proven to be a laxative for craptacular information.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m going to stick my neck out and say Oregon is a special case. There’s something unusual about it which is being used as a fascist incubator. Not-so-lawfully-employed-as-former-acting-DHS-secretary Chad Wolf’s handling of Oregon was more like a new kind of School of the Americas for the purposes of training non-governmental actors and DHS shock troops while creating pro-fascist propaganda (like “Look at these goddamned antifa swarming all over Portland!”). Neighboring northern California is a better example as is eastern WA and northern ID — all in convenient single-day road trip distance to Oregon.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        You’re right, it is a special case. Like Washington, it is divided by the more populous and liberal I-5 corridor, especially in the NW, near Portland, and a much more conservative, rural mountains and plains area to the East. Like L.A., the state’s origins are profoundly racist. There’s also a lot of money around, escapees from the Left Coast and old ranching estates especially.

      • Raven Eye says:

        Pondering this a bit more, and getting back to the premise that better internet access will improve the level of rational discourse and decision making … I can say with pretty high confidence that greatly increased nationwide access to broadband will significantly increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of communications within and between seditionists, white supremacists, unofficial militias, extreme right-wing groups, etc. At the same time, we can expect those same improvements to benefit extremists everywhere else on the political and social spectrums.

        If Oregon RWNJs are the exception (along with PNW fellow travelers), that is the exception that proves the rule. These folks aren’t waiting for orders from the right-wing glitterati. They’ve been refining their responses and activities for a long time – progressively leveraging technological advances in internet, social media, and peer-to-peer communications applications.

        — In August, 2012, amongst others at the event, at least two guys from Medford were inspired enough to drive up to Salem (3 1/2 hours each way) for a little side action at a police firearms “turn-in”. They had the cash in-hand to better the $75 Fred Meyer gift cards being offered to folks who wanted to turn in weapons.

        — Following the 2015 Chattanooga military recruiting station shootings, armed Oath Keepers materialized to provide “security” for the Grants Pass recruiting station. Also in 2015, armed Oath Keepers gathered in Medford after they were called in by the owners of the Sugar Pine Mine after that mine was ordered to cease operations by the Bureau of Land Management. They deployed, armed, to the mine location in neighboring Josephine County.

        — During the summer of 2020, armed “volunteers” patrolled downtown Medford to provide “security” for businesses. Later, in the wake of disastrous fires, rumors were propagated that Antifa and/or (!) Proud Boys were arrested for arson.

        To be honest, I can’t be sure how the communications paths that supported the above actions were divided between low-tech and high-tech methods. All were likely to be in play and enabled them to get wind of events in their sphere of interest, prioritize them, plan — and get everybody incentivized, mobilized, and deployed.

        It is certain that the huge holes in broadband coverage dramatically reduce access to balanced, factual information and to essential services. But I haven’t seen anything that convinces me that (nearly) universal access will make automatically turn sizeable blocks of the citizenry towards better sources of information. I don’t see that as the case with the current broadband lay-down. Frankly, the biggest winner will likely be the porn industry.

        • Rayne says:

          Look, the insurrectionists organized using Facebook as well as other platforms like Parler and Telegram. They’re organizing with or without better broadband coverage.


          It’s not about making it easier for them, it’s about ensuring they have more than the tiny ugly pipe they’re using like Facebook when they don’t have broadband.

          And yeah, moar pr0n. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

          • P J Evans says:

            Pr0n will make money by whatever means is available, especially if it’s new and interesting in itself: paper, video, webcam, whatever.

        • bmaz says:

          You can’t stop the porn, that is kind of irrelevant. But, like speech, more information is better than less. Everywhere. People are going to do what they will, so be it. My only objection is having three million pieces of low orbiting space junk to get there.

          • Raven Eye says:

            Agree…The main goal is to increase access to information in the “information age”. That supports education, social mobility, small business, civil rights, access to essential services, etc. All of which (MAGA-oids take note) also increases US competitiveness. The RWNJ (or any flavor of Nut Job) issue is at best a side issue.

            As for the space junk…I keep getting the (granted, probably unfounded) impression that Starlink is some kind of radio frequency Ponzi scheme. 12,000 satellites FCC-approved and the international request for spectrum that will support 30,000 more. Musk needs the international approval because with U.S. approval only, the satellites spend the vast majority of their time NOT over the U.S. Why do I imagine that if this thing goes pear shaped, the taxpayers are going to be stuck with the bill to fix it?

  21. Wm. Boyce says:

    Ignorance is all-important to disseminating lies. If mis-information and/or lies is all that the reader is consuming, they are subject to belief in those lies.

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