Most of the buildings in Dupree, S.D., population 434, do not have street addresses. The volunteer fire department is listed at P.O. Box 461, and you have to dial seven digits to reach it since there's no 911 emergency line. Unsurprisingly, the Greater Dupree Metropolitan Area also lacks broadband Internet service. "We're about 30 years behind the rest of the United States," says Mayor Don Howe. "In some ways, that's good. It's a slower pace of life."
Not for long—if the Federal Communications Commission has anything to say about it. On Tuesday morning, the FCC unleashed its 376-page plan for overhauling the nation's Internet connections, and it includes the goal of extending broadband access to the entire country. As part of the stimulus package, passed in early 2009, Congress ordered the FCC to come up with a plan to provide broadband service to regions with no access to it. According to the FCC, such regions are home to some 14 million people. (Another 79 million have access to it but can't afford it or don't want it.)
The plan, unveiled to a capacity crowd in an FCC hearing room, has been largely well-received. Who's against faster Internet service? (Even the normally mulish National Association of Broadcasters, who are nervous about losing their chunk of the spectrum, had tentative praise for it.) As FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn put it: "If we sit back and do nothing, we will be supporting the development of a long-lasting underclass of those who do not have access to the most basic needs." But supporting faster Internet service isn't the same as supporting a federal subsidy for faster Internet service.
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