Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Crossroads in Rural Wi-Fi?

Ate dinner last night at a local Mexican restaurant in Crossville, Tennessee.

And one thing that came to mind was that I’ve been woefully inconsiderate of the digital realities in our rural communities.

Now, Crossville -- which bills itself as the 'Golf Capital of Tennessee' -- is relatively populated compared to some of the old mountain roads I got lost on finding the town. From the looks of it, the resorts and golf courses must bring in the bulk of the local economy; though from my view of the trees on the side of a mountain, I didn't get to see that part of town. Instead, I spent most of my time in the forest and in the gas stations and by local restaurants stealing Wi-Fi.

And I'm wondering what digital life is like for folks here in the dales of Tennessee. On the one hand, you can't pull into a truck-stop or a fastfood joint's parking lot without catching the local feed; but out there on the roads and in the hills, there's barely cell reception.

Through much of eastern TN, I was spotting signs for something related to a TN Tech something-or-other. I'd really like to know what that's all about. Because I think the rural Wi-Fi issue might even be more difficult to address than the digital divide in the underprivileged communities in our cities. At least in places like West Baltimore, folks are living close enough together that WiMax and similar coverage systems can get to all of ‘em.

But in the dales of rural Tennessee?

I’d love to hear from some teachers in really ‘off-the-map’ communities about issues facing their schools with regard to tech and especially to Wi-Fi access. I realize that I really don’t understand what’s happening here and I’m asking you for your voices and experiences.

I’m also understanding that ‘off-the-map’ is anything but a fair description of these communities. In Crossville last evening, there was a steel guitar concert going down at the main street theatre and though the old strip mall where we found the restaurant was full of check-cashing joints and a sub-par outlet grocer, the food and the service was top-notch.

If anything, I’m the one who’s been ‘off-the-map’.

- Written in Malvern, Arkansas 12:38AM July 16, 2009

1 comment:

  1. I live outside of Punxsutawney in western PA. It is a very depressed area. Many people here have some money but half of the students are on free o reduced lunches. Over the last few years, more students are found to not have a computer or Internet (and that is in my academic class.) The non-academic track do not have the access. The only wifi is in McDonalds in the center of town.

    As a teacher trying to go paperless, I have to fall back to paper sometimes and I have to have some incredible patience and keeping a pulse on what my students have access to.


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