Former FCC economist Michael Katz might want to rethink his recent comments about rural America when he buys his next loaf of bread. You see, Katz, thinks it's a waste of money to bring broadband internet access to rural areas. That is one of the initiatives outlined in the economic stimulus package President Obama will sign this week.
"The notion that we should be helping people who live in rural areas avoid the costs that they impose on society … is misguided," Katz went on, "from an efficiency point of view and an equity one."
"Just the week before, a New York Times story on the rural broadband funding in the economic stimulus package used the phrase "cyber bridge to nowhere." That stung the rural issues advocates at the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Ky.
"When they talk about 'cyber bridges to nowhere,' what they're really doing is betraying arrogance," complains Dee Davis, the center's director. "When people think of rural as 'nowhere,' [they're] saying the people who live in those places aren't worth working with, they're not worth helping."
If you follow Katz's logic, then it was a waste of money to bring electricity, telephones and paved roads to the rural areas of America. Arrogance is one excuse but I think this mentality goes even deeper. It is likely that Katz is one of those folks who just don't believe anything good can come from anywhere other than two or three metropolitan areas of this country.
As a fourth generation Kansan, I see firsthand everyday the talent, creativity and work ethic that comes from people who grew up in rural areas. I am only one generation removed from growing up on a farm so I don't have direct experience, but I sure am glad that is part of my heritage.
So Mr. Katz, we invite you to come out to see how the rest of us live. You might be surprised at what you find and realize that a little investment in rural America does pay off.