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Rural News

Closing the digital and economic divides in rural America

Brookings | Posted on September 6, 2018

These experiences of rural Americans highlight the need for expanded universal service programs, like the Lifeline program, that provide discounted communications services to eligible, low-income populations. The program was established by the FCC during the Reagan administration in 1985, but recent efforts by the agency to apply stricter scrutiny on eligibility criteria and to limit the program benefits will greatly affect the Mulgrave family and so many others like them who struggle to maintain this required service.

Economic Returns to Rural Infrastructure Investments

Farm Foundation | Posted on September 6, 2018

Farm Foundation has released six papers commissioned to examine specific issues critical to rural infrastructure development. Understanding the economic returns on investing in rural infrastructure improvements is a critical element in the decision-making process for public and private investors. “As the nation addresses rural infrastructure needs, it is vital that public and private decision makers have the best information possible on the economic and social returns of their investments,” says Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman. “These papers begin to fill that need by examining some of the diverse issues in measuring returns of rural infrastructure investments.” Economically Efficient Composition of Rural Infrastructure Investment:  Mark Burton, Ph.D., of the University of Tennessee and Wesley W. Wilson, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon, provide an economic explanation for why public-sector infrastructure investments are economically-efficient public policy. The authors also describe why many necessary investments must be sited in and/or available to rural communities.

USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.

USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities Bridge the Broadband e-Connectivity Infrastructure Gap

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled a new webpage featuring information about the importance of rural e-Connectivity and the ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing to help deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure in rural America. “Rural high-speed broadband e-Connectivity is as important for economic development as rail, roads, bridges and airports – and as vital as the buildouts of rural telephone networks were decades ago,” Perdue said. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner with rural leaders in deploying this essential infrastructure.”Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-Connectivity acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, farms, ranches, businesses, schools and health care centers. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million Americans who lack broadband access live in rural areas and on tribal lands.USDA plays an important role in helping rural communities bridge this infrastructure gap through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation by investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure. This new website will provide direct access to information on our decades-long programs that offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. In the coming months, USDA will almost double these longstanding programs with an additional $600 million to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.

In a changing climate, will fire make a bigger run in Washington’s west-side forests?

The Seattle Times | Posted on September 6, 2018

The findings, detailed in a study that he led, show that trees had yet to return to some of the driest edges of burn zones, which were dominated by shrubs and grasses. In other areas, trees did take root, but there were fewer of them than in moister, cooler times.On the east side, in forests dominated by thick-barked ponderosa pine, low-intensity fires in centuries past often came every five to 30 years, clearing out brush and small trees. In the 20th century, decades of human intervention, in the form of fire suppression, sometimes squelched that natural fire cycle, allowing big buildups of fuel. In recent years, restoration efforts are aimed at bringing those forests back to a more natural balance.But wetter forests, such as the stand torched in the Norse Peak blaze, have a very different relationship with fire. They burn infrequently but the toll on the trees often is severe. Trying to head off these fires would require thinning these public lands every decade or so, and that would change the natural character of these lands in what Franklin calls a “fool’s exercise.”There also are benefits to these west-side fires, which Franklin says can act as powerful sources of forest renewal.

What Are the Most-Googled Wildlife Photos in Your State?

Live Science | Posted on September 6, 2018

Are people more captivated by deadly local snakes, carnivorous mammals or venomous spiders? It depends on where people live, according to new data from Google showing the top image searches for bugs and wild animals, state by state in the U.S.

Georgia's Lt Governor Candidate raises rural hospitals as campaign issue

Daily Yonder | Posted on September 6, 2018

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, Sarah Riggs Amico, has raised rural hospital closures as a campaign issue.  “There are 60 counties in Georgia without a pediatrician, half of our counties don’t have an OB/GYN, & rural hospitals are closing,” she stated in an Aug. 20 tweet. She criticized state lawmakers for failing to expand the number of people covered by Medicaid, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.  “… [O]ur current state lawmakers sent back $33 [billion] in your federal tax dollars –money Georgia had already paid in — because they wanted to play politics.” Amico, a business owner, faces Republican Geoff Duncan, a former state representative, in the race for lieutenant governor. 

Tennessee Power Co-op and ISP use new state law to add broadband

Daily Yonder | Posted on September 6, 2018

New rules in Tennessee allow utility co-ops more leeway in providing internet service to their customers. A power co-op joins forces with an existing internet-service provider to expand broadband access and lay the infrastructure for a power “smart grid.” Middle Tennessee Electric co-op and United Communications announced a partnership that guarantees fire stations – and residents – all the broadband they need.“Before United came to save us, the fire station had a 4G LTE cellular hotspot in the bay where the trucks are parked,” says Fire Lieutenant Fritz Haimberger of the Peytonsville Volunteer Fire Department. “Internet speed was great when no one was using it. But once you have four or five devices connecting to it, its usefulness was limited.”Now they have gigabit speed that will lead to significant safety and communication improvements. For more than 10 years, members of the power co-op have been asking for broadband service. It’s gone from something people want to something people need.An opportunity arose for the Middle Tennessee Power co-op when state law changed last year giving utility cooperatives more leeway in providing broadband.“When the door of opportunity opened with state law change, we evaluated our options,” says Middle Tennessee Electric President and CEO Chris Jones. “We were fortunate to have in our own backyard a company (United Communications) doing innovative things to get broadband deployed.”This is the first co-op/private company partnership in the state to offer broadband services.

Million of acres of public land are not legally accessible

Daily Yonder | Posted on September 6, 2018

Private holdings block public access to nearly 10 million acres of federal land in the West, hampering growth in the recreation economy, a new report says. The federal program that could help purchase access expires September 30. The inaccessibility of this federal property is slowing down rural economies that depend on income from the outdoor recreation industry, said a representative of the organization that commissioned the report. The study, “Off Limits But Within Reach: Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands,” was conducted by the Conservation Partnership and a private mapping company.“These are lands that all Americans own, and yet public access is not readily available or guaranteed,” Webster said.  

A rural town banded together to open a hospital. Its foe? A larger hospital.

The New York Times | Posted on September 6, 2018

Not long after Beau Braden moved to southwest Florida to open a medical clinic, injured strangers started showing up at his house. A boy who had split open his head at the pool. People with gashes and broken bones. There was nowhere else to go after hours, they told him, so Dr. Braden stitched them up on his dining room table. They were 40 miles inland from the coral-white condos and beach villas of Naples, but Dr. Braden said that this rural stretch of Collier County, with tomato farms and fast-growing exurbs, had fewer hospital beds per person than Afghanistan.So when he proposed starting a 25-bed rural hospital to serve the 50,000 people who live in the farming town of Immokalee and the nearby planned community of Ave Maria, people rallied to the idea. They envisioned a place where mothers could give birth and sick children could get 24-hour help — their own novel solution to an exodus of hospital care from rural America.But then this summer, a larger hospital in Naples derailed those plans by asking the state to deny the proposal, saying that the small, rural hospital would siphon away patients and revenue. The move has upended people’s hopes around Immokalee and delayed any plans to start building the hospital for months. Maybe for good.