Last week, Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, Cathleen Bourdon associate executive director of ALA Communication and Member Relations, and I (staff lackey) took a road trip to the Snowshoe resort in West Virginia to speak at the West Virginia Library Association Conference. The five-hour drive from D.C. to Snowshoe, W.V., was a pastoral treat, with fall leaves at their peak in the Allegheny Mountains.
There was a gas station in Warrensville where a gallon was only $3.09! The folksy diner there served a grilled cheese sandwich for $2.50. We saw a lot of cows (which is a big deal for folks who live in cities and rarely leave their offices). Emily’s theory that pending rainfall could be determined by whether a cow was standing or laying down on the ground proved to be inconclusive.
Once we got to Snowshoe, we experienced firsthand the difficulties a rural state like West Virginia have with access to broadband. We were assured prior to the trip that Wi-Fi was free, but upon arrival learned that that meant free at the Starbucks (which closes at 4pm). AT&T and T-Mobile were the only cellular networks supported. Because of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope and potential interference with its operation, a large swath of land surrounding the area requires that all radio transmissions be severely limited. Check out the West Virginia Broadband map to see for yourself. Library-wise, over 65 percent of West Virginia libraries still require increased broadband based on the Digital Inclusion Survey.
For those of us suffering digital overload, this might not seem too bad. Cheap gas, low cost grilled cheese sandwiches, and beautiful mountains sound great, so who needs broadband? Everyone. In today’s connected world, how can people succeed without broadband?