A question of values...
Stu Ellis at Farmgate had a good summary of recent research into rural Internet use. But more interesting to me were the comments. [I also spoke about this on USFR last week]
It is the cost of satellite Internet service that prevents most non-users from signing up. What is that cost? Well, for HughesNet - my provider right now it's $300 up front and $60/month for the lowest speed (which worked well for me for 3 years).
I think there are two things going on here.
First, rural America has grown accustomed to subsidized services. Lord knows my electric company doesn't begin to recoup the cost of providing me power. And the same goes for the [landline] phones. But we expect to pay the same as guys in town. For the most part, the rest of America agrees, and views these services as essential to national interests.
Broadband doesn't seem to be viewed the same way, so rural users will have to pay the going rate. That's not our view of how things should work out here in the country.
Second, those without broadband obviously don't value it at $720/year, but I have never met a broadband user who does not - or would exchange his service for the money. So there is a sales hurdle to get broadband into homes for trials, I think.
It is not an inconsiderable sum, of course, but if you have a second phone line for your computer/fax, dropping it could save half the cost of broadband (my extra line was $32/mo. basic charge). Then, because you don't need a local Internet Service Provider (ISP), that saved me $15/mo. In the end I was paying (after the initial hardware cost) all of $12/mo. for hours of time not spent waiting on pages to load.
Plus, unless I miss my guess, cell phone numbers and usage are skyrocketing among rural residents, and I'll bet almost as much is being poured into that communications category.
In short, the choice to plunk down money for broadband is not easy, but it reflects our ability to decide what we value in our lives.