Skip to content Skip to navigation

Rural News

Arkansas battles over municipal broadband

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 21, 2019

Will Arkansas become the first state to rescind its ban on local-government ownership of internet service providers? With the issue before the state Legislature, citizen input could have an impact on the decision. The real legislation, SB 150, unanimously passed out state Senate committee on February 7. But then the full state Senate hijacked the bill and put compromising restrictions in the wording. Now it’s up to the state assembly to restore the wording back to its original intent.Arkansas is one of 21 states whose legislatures have regulated in varying degrees municipalities’ rights to own networks and sell broadband services. Until now, none of these laws have been rescinded. The Tennessee prohibition on community broadband came close to being overturned in 2017.In real terms, the effect of the ban on municipal networks is that about 40% of Arkansans don’t have access to broadband as defined by the FCC. 

Innovative Rural Communities Receive National Recognition

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 21, 2019

More than a decade ago, a group of people from Independence, Oregon, asked legacy telecommunications corporations to bring high-speed fiber internet connectivity to their rural community. “They told us ‘we’ll get to you in 10 or 20 years,’” said Shawn Irvine, economic development director for the City of Independence.   “So we got together and decided to just do it ourselves,” Irvine said. “We didn’t want to wait.”  Independence, a town of about 10,000 on the Willamette River, built its own fiber-to-home broadband system, MINET. Today, 85% of local residents subscribe to the municipal utility.  Independence is one of nine communities selected to participate in the 2019 Rural Innovation Initiative. The initiative will help small towns like Independence use their existing high-quality broadband to create more economic opportunity.  

Decriminalizing marijuana aimed at reducing black incarceration rate, Gov. Tony Evers says

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on February 21, 2019

Allowing Wisconsin residents to smoke and sell small amounts of marijuana would reduce the disproportionate rate at which the state's black residents are arrested, Gov. Tony Evers argued. "People shouldn't be treated like criminals for accessing medicine that could change or maybe even save their lives," Evers said Monday at a news conference announcing his plan to legalize marijuana for medical reasons and decriminalize recreational use of small amounts of the plant. "But I also want to make this clear: This is not just about accessing health care," he said. "This is about connecting the dots between racial disparities and economic inequity."Evers cited the state's distinction of having the nation's highest incarceration rate among black men, time in prison that can result from police stops prompted by marijuana use. 

USDA and HHS partner to create recovery housing in rural communities

Lake County News | Posted on February 19, 2019

USDA and HHS will partner to create addiction recovery transitional housing in rural  communities. USDA Rural Development and HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, will coordinate efforts to sell USDA’s Real Estate Owned single-family housing properties at a discount to non-profit organizations that provide housing, treatment, job training and other key services for people in substance misuse treatment and recovery. 

Wolves may keep cows off Washington Fish and Wildlife land

Capital Press | Posted on February 18, 2019

Washington Fish and Wildlife may prohibit cattle from some department grazing lands to avoid conflicts with wolves, according to an internal review of grazing policies. The review responds to a wolf population growing in numbers and territory. If the department follows through, some of the 129,459 acres of grazing land owned by Fish and Wildlife likely would be off-limits to cattle.In other places, ranchers would have to sign detailed plans to prevent attacks by wolves with non-lethal measures. In some cases, cattle could be taken off the land to stop the depredations

For 6 Cities on the Great Lakes, the Cost of Water Has Risen Sharply

Governing | Posted on February 14, 2019

For months, the Rev. Falicia Campbell kept a secret from her congregation, her friends and even her adult children. It was a secret she was ashamed to divulge: She was living without running water.Like a growing number of Americans, the 63-year-old Chicago resident couldn't afford to pay her rising water bills. She inherited her mother's house in Englewood, a poor neighborhood on the city's South Side, and last year received a $5,000 bill.Campbell is partially blind and lives on a fixed income from disability payments. She dedicates most of her time to helping her community. Her church includes a resource center that provides food and shelter for poor and homeless people.She couldn't pay off her water debt, and in August her water was turned off. The Chicago Water Department offered her a payment plan but required a $1,700 deposit before restoring her water. She didn't have it.

We have a new global tally of the insect apocalypse. It’s alarming.

Vox | Posted on February 14, 2019

Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.

Groups to sue US agency over loss of caribou herd

San Francisco Gate | Posted on February 14, 2019

Environmental groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prevent the recent loss of the last herd of mountain caribou in the Lower 48 states. The handful of remaining animals were relocated into Canada last November, ending decades of efforts to save the southern Selkirk Mountains herd, which were located in a remote part of northern Idaho and Washington state.

Fed Chairman Powell says prosperity not felt in all areas

Seymour Tribune | Posted on February 13, 2019

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell traveled Tuesday to a historically black university in the Mississippi Delta to deliver a message that the nation’s prosperity has not been felt in many such areas around the country.Powell said that many rural areas had been left out and needed special support, such as access to affordable credit to start small businesses and high-quality education to train workers. In his comments, Powell did not address the future course of interest rates or the Fed’s decision last month to announce that it planned to be “patient” in its future interest rate hikes. That decision triggered a big stock market rally from investors worried that the Fed was in danger of pushing rates up so much it could bring on a recession.Addressing the current economy, Powell said that economic output remained solid and he did not feel the possibility of a recession “is at all elevated.” He noted that unemployment is currently near a 50-year low.“We know that prosperity has not been felt as much in some areas, including many rural places,” Powell said in an address to a conference on economic development at Mississippi Valley State University. “Poverty remains a challenge in many rural communities.”He noted that 70 percent of the 473 counties in the United States designated as having persistent levels of poverty were in rural areas. Among the problems being faced in the Mississippi Delta, Powell said, were the loss of jobs in agriculture and low-skilled manufacturing because of automation and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.

Washington internet bill popular; costs, beneficiaries unclear

Capital Press | Posted on February 12, 2019

Support was strong at a Senate hearing for spending public funds to spread the benefits of high-seed internet, but many questions remain such as how much money will be available and for whose benefit.The Inslee administration has put forward a bill to connect every home and business in Washington with internet fast-enough to meet the federal definition of broadband by 2024. A new office within the Commerce Department would oversee "central broadband planning."The bill does not appropriate a specific amount of money. As a start, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $25 million over the next two years for projects, plus $1.2 million for the office.