Broadband Update: From the Mountains of Thailand
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Photo: flickr / rabinal
The chair of my tiny town’s broadband committee is in Thailand, on a vacation that has me turning a brighter shade of kale. (If you don’t get the musical reference, ask an elder.)
She sent us this dispatch:
Today I was in a remote HmongTai village in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai. There was a sort of a road that went there, but we got there by riding elephants through the jungle, then hiking up a mountain path too steep for the elephants, then cutting across some terraced rice fields and lychee orchards to this little cluster of shacks. The walls were bamboo and the roofs corrugated metal. There were scrawny chickens running all over the place, adults in modern and traditional dress, and a bunch of happy, filthy kids.
We noticed a satellite dish and some other largish dish (microwave?). Anyway, we asked about it, and our guide told us that yes, they had high-speed internet for the kids to take online courses. I made him take a picture of the dishes, and explained that we didn’t have high-speed internet where I lived. A little while later, bushwacking our way back up the side of the mountain, the guide’s cell phone rang! Go figure.
Meanwhile, back in the States, here where the roads are largely paved and ATVs take the place of elephants, we struggle through steep piles of paper issued by the USDA’s RUS and the FCC’s NTIA looking for clues that will yield funding to enable our kids to take online courses on high-speed internet. And we light candles to the Gods of the White Spaces, hoping they’ll make room among them for cell phone service in the hills where no major mobile communication vendor dares to tread, fearing the dreaded dropped calls that will spoil their advertising message.
Capitalism, I’m sure, has its virtues. But fostering communication and education is not among them.