Industry should connect with remote towns

There was a story in the Chicago Tribune last week about the small, remote town of Iowa Hill in California, which was making news because it finally had been wired for telephone service. The story noted how some Iowa Hill residents value phone service over electricity and indoor plumbing, and how glad they were to finally have it. It also noted how many rural towns in California still don't have basic telephone service.

There are also many towns and individual customers outside of California who don't have basic telephone service, probably more than most of us would think. As a nation, we have a tendency to believe that this particular job has been done, or at least as done as anyone is capable of doing it. We may forget that in most cases, making service available is an investment decision up to companies that must watch their own bottom lines.

But, the fact that Iowa Hill is getting service proves that viable financial models and technology options do exist. In Iowa Hill's case, some of the money is coming from a state grant. But, if telcos and their equipment vendor partners were more ambitious about connecting these towns with basic service and maybe even broadband, wouldn't they be able to turn that good will into a long return on investment. For example, wouldn't pointing to the little, remote town you connected at a loss be worth some regulatory favor? Also, in this age of ubiquitous advertising, couldn't a telco and its partners take a community like Iowa Hill and turn it into a major promotional campaign, maybe even a highly-touted testbed for new technology?

For more:
- here's that story in the Chicago Tribune

- Dan