For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22 or (703) 517-6273

Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road chronicles the impact of life without broadband in rural America

WASHINGTON - -- the broad-based initiative to connect every American to fast, open and affordable Internet -- today released Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road, a unique, multimedia report on the digital divide in rural America.

"More than 14.3 million rural homes across the country -- 61 percent -- are not connected to high-speed Internet," said Megan Tady of Free Press, author of the report. "This isn't just a statistic. It's a daily reality for the millions of people who can't go online to apply for jobs, attend classes, start home-based businesses, get news and information, and participate in the global economy."

To get an up-close glimpse at life on the digital dirt road, Tady traveled across North Carolina -- a state hit hard by the economic downturn -- documenting the challenges facing rural communities without high-speed Internet access.

Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road combines in-depth profiles and short, documentary-style videos into a compelling five-part series:

  • Day One: In Robeson County, a rural area devastated by textile plant closings, members of the local Lumbee Tribe cannot afford the high-speed Internet connections that would lead to other economic opportunities.
  • Day Two: One hour north of Durham in rural Person County, farmer Jay Foushee is stuck using a slow dial-up connection to check market prices and sell his crops. His teenage daughter Julia has to leave the house each night in search of a broadband connection to do her homework.
  • Day Three: Living in the Smoky Mountains outside of Asheville, writer Brooks Townes gave up his freelance career because his dial-up connection made him uncompetitive. And bed-and-breakfast owner Martha Abraham fears that her slow and unpredictable satellite connection hurts her small business.
  • Day Four: In remote Spring Creek, residents are trying to revive their town by building a community center that offers a computer lab and space for local businesses, an effort that could prove futile without high-speed Internet.
  • Day Five: In Rutherford County, Sam Adams, a senior IBM researcher, was forced to spend thousands of dollars to erect his own broadband tower so he could continue telecommuting.

This report will be showcased at the town hall meeting on the future of the Internet in Durham, N.C., on Saturday, March 7.

"High-speed Internet is a lifeline to the outside world, and a chance to overcome the limits of geography, poorly funded schools and a sinking economy," Tady said. "Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road puts a human face on the urgent need to expand broadband across the nation to ensure the health of our rural communities and our country as a whole."

Read and watch Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road:

Learn more about the North Carolina town hall meeting:


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