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If we measure infrastructure in terms of ROI, of course it doesn’t make sense to build out fiber to the home in Point Arena. By that measure, it also doesn’t really make sense to build bridges. Or roads. Or aqueducts. Public goods tend to have pretty rotten ROI. And today in the United States, the Internet increasingly acts as a stand-in or scaffolding upon which social and civic institutions are expected to operate, placing public services on the backbone of privately held platforms.
Without an equivalent to the Rural Electrification Act for broadband, it’s not clear how that scaffolding won’t collapse in on itself.
On a trip across the country, D&S artist in residence Ingrid Burrington stops in Point Arena, California. This small town is located next to the Manchester Cable Station where “the internet rises out of the ocean” yet despite proximity to the cable nearly half of the 34,000 households in the area have only marginal or no broadband access. In this article in her series for the Atlantic, Burrington details not only the digital divide that exists in this area but also the efforts of local providers to grant access and the connectivity promised by the internet.
Follow the series at the Atlantic