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Rural News

Internet Access - an incomplete promise

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 2, 2016

With their homes and small businesses lacking access to robust fiber Internet service, many American small business operators try to get by with mobile wireless service not intended to support businesses. Larry Korte is an example, trying to run his consulting business in Churchville, Virginia, on 4G cellular service. But since the service is essentially metered Internet, where users pay overage charges for exceeding bandwidth limits, Korte finds the service expensive and a poor value. “I go to the [cell phone provider] and say, ‘Well, we need 300 gigabytes a month. That would probably do it.’” Korte said. “They laugh at it, and tell me to go to the cable company.” Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) wants to get better Internet access to about 800 homes in his district. He notes that Charter, Comcast, and AT&T told him that “it’s not profitable” to serve homes in that district, which covers parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties in southeast Tennessee. Some premises in southern Bradley County are less than a mile from Chattanooga’s municipal fiber service, leaving them with dial-up service and a slow connection speed. That leaves nursery operator Joyce Coltrin, like many unserved Americans, reliant on her smartphone for Internet access. “It’s very hard to use an iPhone for business,” said Coltrin, who heads a group of 160 households who call themselves “citizens striving to be part of the 21st century.”

Bringing people together:Rural is 'different', not 'less'

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 2, 2016

A foundation executive says some philanthropies may use questions of "capacity" as an excuse not to fund projects in rural America. But in the long run, he says, urban-based philanthropies need rural constituencies to make a difference at the national level. But that’s apparently not what has happened in the recent past. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study released last year showed that rural areas, while they were home to about 19 percent of the U.S. population,  received only 6 to 7 percent of private foundation grants awarded from 2005 to 2010. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the disparity “tragic,” especially in light of earlier conversations the administration has had with foundation leaders about increasing philanthropy in rural areas.

Mapping the large-scale loss of natural areas in the West

High Country News | Posted on June 2, 2016

Energy development was the biggest force transforming landscapes in Colorado and Wyoming in recent years, according to an interactive mapping project called the Disappearing West released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C.  Some 362 square miles of Colorado and 491 square miles of Wyoming were altered by energy development between 2001 and 2011, increasing the total land area covered by energy development in those states by 33 percent and 38 percent.

Income Inequality: A Growing Threat to Eliminating Rural Child Poverty

USDA | Posted on May 25, 2016

Rural child poverty fell by 3 percentage points from 2012 to 2014. Over the past seven years, USDA and the Obama Administration have taken action to address the root causes and reduce the devastating effects of rural child poverty.  As a record streak of private sector job creation has cut nationwide unemployment in half, to 5 percent, average incomes for rural and urban families alike climbed nearly 6 percent in the last two years of data, returning to 2003 levels.  While we have made important progress in increasing incomes and reducing the rural child poverty rate, it remains unacceptable that 1.5 million children in rural America – 23.7 percent of all rural youth – live in poverty.

Columbia River salmon recovery plan invalidated

High Country News | Posted on May 22, 2016

It was the fifth to be struck down by the courts. In May, the Oregon U.S. District Court rejected that 2014 plan, saying tactics used to manage dams and protect salmon “have already cost billions of dollars, yet they are failing.” This plan is the fifth to be invalidated because it violates the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The judge called for a full analysis of how dams affect salmon, plus a new plan, by March 2018. Earthjustice attorney Todd True said management “must change dramatically — and very quickly — if wild salmon are to inhabit these rivers in the future.”

LIbraries lend themselves to broadband partnerships | Posted on May 19, 2016

If you’re looking for a broadband connection, access to technology, or even a partnership for funding connectivity, your local library could be the place to check out. Changes have been happening within libraries nationwide that make them ideal partners in planning and funding broadband for individuals, businesses, and institution such as schools and hospitals. The people who drive the efforts to bring better broadband to their communities need to understand the potential role that libraries can offer.

Rescuing Hawaii's birds with genetic engineering

Technology Review | Posted on May 16, 2016

Hawaii’s fourth-largest island, says Paxton, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is seeing a sudden, rapid decline in native birds.  The prime suspect is avian malaria. It’s being spread by mosquitoes and it kills rare birds such as the 'i'iwi, a bright red honeycreeper with a curvy Dr. Seuss beak. Surveys carried out on the island’s rugged, roadless interior are finding fewer birds than ever before. Extinction for some species looks imminent.

So now a group of government officials, conservationists, and scientists in Hawaii are seriously looking at a high-tech solution: genetically modified mosquitoes.  They say the modified bugs, whose offspring die quickly, thereby reducing mosquito populations, could be the best chance to save Hawaii’s endangered birds. If these discussions move forward, one idea would be to release millions of genetically modified bugs to drive mosquitoes off of Kauai’s plateau and maybe right out of the entire archipelago.

Tracking funding of Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative

Tracking funding of Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative | Posted on May 15, 2016

If you thought the $740 million of money this year was going to be used to strictly buy conservation lands, you will be surprised.  State Representative Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, says they went to the Florida Supreme Court to clarify.   "Now if somebody misinterprets what was in Amendment 1, I would encourage them to read the amendment or read what was in the Supreme Court opinion. I think it will become very clear to them."

So in this latest fiscal year, $162 million -- more than 20 percent of the money collected for the Fund --  will go to pay the salaries of employees at the Department of Environmental Protection, Forestry, and Fish and Wildlife. These are not new positions. They are jobs that used to be paid from General Revenue tax funds.

Long Distance Caregiving:Rough Road for Rural Families

Daily Yonder | Posted on May 11, 2016

The adult children of aging parents live an average of 480 miles away.  You go anyway, because family is counting on you. But it’s often hard both mentally and physically, or at least it is at my age. It’s expensive, whether you fly or drive. And for many of us, it means taking time off work.....In the meantime, Bill and I have had lots of conversations about what happens when it’s our turn to face the transportation challenges that come with aging in rural America. We don’t have children to come to our aid, or the financial resources to hire many services. So we know we should be proactive in making choices and plans for our future.

Just the Facts: Rural Bankruptcies

Center for Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on May 11, 2016

Rural bankruptcy filings are on the decline, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Data show that, from 2014 to 2015, there was a 2 percent decline in bankruptcy filings among rural Pennsylvania businesses and individuals. The data encompass a 12-month period ending in 2014 and a similar period ending in 2015.

The decline in rural bankruptcies, however, pales in comparison to the decline in urban bankruptcies, as the number of urban businesses and individuals filing for bankruptcy declined 15 percent from 2014 to 2015. Nationwide, there was a 12 percent decline in filings.

In 2015, there were 6,536 rural bankruptcy filings, or 1.9 filings per 1,000 residents. During the same period, there were 16,792 urban bankruptcy filings, or 1.8 per 1,000 residents.

The majority of both rural and urban bankruptcy filings were consumer, or nonbusiness, filings (97 and 96 percent, respectively). Consumer debt is debt incurred by an individual primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose. If the debtor is a corporation or partnership, or if the debt related to the operation of a business predominates, the debt is considered to be business.

While business bankruptcy filings are only a fraction of the total filings (less than 5 percent), they have increased. From 2014 to 2015, there was a 6 percent increase in rural business filings. Urban business filings, however, decreased 25 percent.