According to a new analysis from Bloomburg News:

This month, as the last U.S. combat forces left Iraq, the holiday parade in Hickory, North Carolina, featured a first: marchers carrying the names of all the state’s troops who died in that war and in Afghanistan.

“The older men stood and saluted; some people cried,” said Mike Beasley, an ex-Marine who organized the display through his church. “It opened a lot of people up to what had happened.”

Places like Hickory, with a population of 40,010, bore much of the burden of Iraq war casualties. Roughly half of those who died came from towns with fewer than 50,000 people, and of those, about a quarter were from places with less than 10,000, a Bloomberg analysis of U.S. Census figures suggests.

The all-volunteer military gets many front-line troops from rural areas, where there’s a culture of patriotism, a tradition of service and often limited economic opportunities, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in defense policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Infantry forces, which take the brunt of a lot of the casualties, do tend to draw predominantly from these regions,” O’Hanlon said.

This statistic is even more telling when you consider that while one-half (1/2) of the troop that died came from rural areas; only 10% of the US population lives in such areas. In other words, one-half of the deaths came from just 10% of the US population.

And yet, most Congresspersons representing rural areas  like Alabama Cong. Mike Rogers (see here and here) seem to agitate for more war & any war.

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h/t Daily Yonder.

According to this Daily Yonder article, in nearly one out of three (19) Alabama counties, women can expect to live shorter lives than a decade ago. The article concludes with this:

In rural America, only 556 counties have male longevity rates above the national average — or 27% of all rural counties.

The researchers point to a number of factors that affect longevity. Individual health risks, from smoking to obesity to diabetes, are important.

The researchers also note the “poor — and worsening — national and local performance of US communities” in terms of health care. “The critical insight this work underscores is something that we’ve known for years — that both health and health care are produced locally,” Elliott Fisher, a physician at Dartmouth Medical School who studies regional variations, told the Washington Post.

This shows why headlines like Randolph hospital closing leaves residents bewildered should garner greater policy emphasis and consideration.

 

Based upon newly released data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Daily Yonder blog reports on the continuing divide between rural and urban communities access to broadband.

According to the article,

The first shows the percentage of census tracts with only one broadband provider. In urban areas, only 2.2% of census tracts had a single broadband provider.  As the communities grew more rural, however, the percentage of tracts with only one provider grew. In rural America, nearly one in four census tracts had only one broadband provider.

The same stair-step pattern can be seen with download speeds. In urban areas, less than 4% of census tracts had broadband download speeds of under 6 megabits per second. That rose steadily as the tracts grew more rural until, in the most rural areas, 17.2% of the communities had these slow download speeds.

And those were advertised download speeds. Some researchers believe that real download speeds in rural America are far slower than those advertised.

What the data tells us is that the broadband divide is much more than just who has a connection and who doesn’t. In fact, the rural-urban gap is much wider in terms of choice of providers and speed than it is for a simple connection.

Considering that Alabama is 49th in the United States in internet connectivity and 23 percent of people in the state who access the Internet [are] using antiquated dial-up services, we know these statistics to not only be true but probably exacerbated.

As I discussed here:

Good news: Average US broadband speed has now reached 4.7 Mbps, up from 3.9 Mbps last year, according to Akamai’s first quarter report.

Bad news: the rest of the world is nearing Gigabit speed according to this article. That is over 200 times faster than the US average.

In fact, Korea is on par to have universal Gigabit speed by 2012, according to this report.

Every home in Korea will have Gigabit speed, whereas we do not even have universal access to sub-par Mbps. There is no incentive for improvement where no competition exists in 25% of our rural communities. Our telecommunications policies are failing rural America.

Although rural broadband expansion improves healthcare for rural areas, makes our local economies globally competitiveencourages rural entrepreneurism, and lowers rural unemployment, according to reports,

The USDA’s expansion of rural broadband appears to be on the chopping block, according to information contained in the newest budget deal out of Congress. Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee seek to cut the full $700 million in funding USDA had allocated to use this year on rural broadband expansion projects.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis

These budgeted monies were not not just give-aways either.

The money was to be made available by the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service for loans to rural broadband providers. Not grants. The default rate for RUS is extremely low. The money would be paid back. . . . The loan amounts were secured by $68 million appropriated by the 2008 Farm Bill, but this money was cut in earlier resolutions. “Said accurately, the denial of the $68 million in federal funds means that a figure over ten times that amount will not flow to credit worthy wired and wireless service providers for eventual repayment to the government,” the website reported. “The RUS broadband loan portfolio has a default rate of less than one percent.”

The importance of rural broadband has been compared to rural electrification many times in the years before these 2011,

Seventy years ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt realized that if private industry wouldn’t run power lines out to the farthest reaches of rural areas, it would take government money to help make it happen. In 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration was established to deliver electricity to the Tennessee Valley and beyond. . . Now, money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is doing the same with broadband, which is typically defined as DSL (digital subscriber line), cable modem, fiber optic or fixed wireless.

Republicans agreed with the importance of broadband to rural communites before:

I think, actually. . .the government has an important role to play in broadband access in rural communities. In fact, the senator [McCain] is promoting a program called People Connect, in which he would hope to provide tax benefits and financial benefits to companies who would provide those services to low-income users and rural users. I think the problem in rural parts of America are that the economics are not nearly as compelling as they are in metropolises like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, and it may require some government assistance, either through financial subsidy policy or other kinds of creative tools like community or municipal broadband services that help bring those people into the cosmos of technology and connects them to the wonderful benefits that the Net provides.

And  Republicans really sounded like they agreed with importance of broadband generally here:

“Many of the countries outpacing the United States in the deployment of high speed Internet services, including Canada, Japan and South Korea, have successfully combined municipal systems with privately deployed networks to wire their countries,” McCain said. “As a country, we cannot afford to cut off any successful strategy if we want to remain internationally competitive.” McCain acknowledged that the U.S. has a “long and successful” history of private investment in communications infrastructure. However, he said, when the industry does not “answer the call,” other options should be available.

And Republicans really, really sounded in agreement that the “market” fails rural communities, here:

In particular, through access to high-speed Internet services that facilitate interstate commerce, drive innovation, and promote educational achievements, there is the potential to change lives. These kinds of transformations of our way of life require the infrastructure of modern communication, and government has a role to play in assuring every community in America can develop that infrastructure. This country has a long history of ensuring that rural areas have the same access to communication technology as other places. . .  In many places, cities and towns are working with businesses that have experience providing high-speed Internet services to share the cost of building and improving that service. Where companies are unwilling to build information infrastructure, the federal government can support towns through government-backed loans or by issuing bonds with a low interest rate.

Alabama Democrats will be known for what we fight for; let’s dig in here.