published Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

High-dollar rural Internet service

You may recall that one of the things the 2009 stimulus act was supposed to "stimulate" was greater access to higher-speed, broadband Internet service, especially in rural areas.

Well, some rural areas did get better Internet access through the stimulus. But you will have to decide for yourself whether it was worth the cost.

Navigant Economics, a consulting firm, looked at stimulus-funded development and expansion of broadband Internet access in rural areas of Kansas, Minnesota and Montana.

What the firm discovered was not encouraging.

For every unserved household that got broadband access through the stimulus, it cost the federal government an average of more than $349,000!

That compares with average household income of around $45,000 in those regions. And it's also far higher than the median home prices in those areas of $94,000 to $189,000.

So instead of extending broadband Internet access to families in those rural areas at a cost of nearly $350,000 apiece, it literally would have been cheaper for Congress to buy them new homes in areas that already had high-speed Internet -- and to move them and pay them a couple of years' wages!

Unfortunately, serious cost concerns were not sufficiently addressed before the stimulus passed. It was just assumed that lots of government spending would have to do a lot of good.

But we're not sure how "good" it is to force taxpayers to foot a $349,000 bill for Internet service to a single home.

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