Editorial: A roadblock in Hanover’s ‘Information Superhighway’

For many in Hanover County’s higher density neighborhoods, high-speed Internet access is a given. All they need to do is call up a local service provider to schedule an install.

For rural residents, however, the “Information Superhighway” resembles something more like a pothole-ridden dirt road. And, unfortunately, there’s an immovable roadblock.

Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis held a community forum Monday concerning the lack of high-speed Internet access in Eastern Hanover. We applaud his efforts; it’s important for elected officials to clear the air with constituents, especially when it comes to issues that affect their quality of life.

However, without a population boom in the county’s rural regions, the digital divide in Hanover probably isn’t going anywhere.

The issue? Private companies dictate where high-speed Internet access goes. If there aren’t enough homes close together, they lose their profit margin. Companies are much more likely to wire high-density neighborhoods than sprawling farms, and there isn’t really anything anybody can do to make them change their minds.

Communications providers are, after all, businesses, and the goal of businesses at the end of the day is to make money.

However, Internet access is a unique issue and one that raises a lot of questions about the role of government versus the private sector. Should local government intervene to make high-speed Internet access a reality for all of Hanover’s residents and businesses?

Some would argue that Internet access is in the public interest, like water or other utilities managed by municipalities (we can picture it now: “Hano-verizon”). Others would say ensuring Internet access isn’t government’s job.

Hanover’s leaders will have to decide for themselves.

Technology enhances our daily lives. We are more connected, more informed and more entertained than ever before. But the Internet is more than cat videos and tweets. It’s also an economic engine that has the power to turn wheels even on the roughest of roads.

Posted on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 10:59 am