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There are 2,200 applications seeking a piece of the first $4 billion in stimulus money set aside to speed high-speed internet connections to rural communities and other neighborhoods with poor access. The applications contain $28 billion in requests, reports Joelle Tessler, and promise all kinds of development, jobs and new economic opportunities. Tessler reviews four of these applications to give a taste of the kind of projects being planned. 

For instance, the local cable company has pulled out of the Coeur d’Alene tribal reservation (which is about half the size of Rhode Island) and Verizon offers DSL to just a small part of the rez. So the tribe is asking for $12.2 million to run fiber-optic lines that would connect 3,500 homes on one side of the reservation. The tribe has a wireless network, but it’s not particularly fast and it’s expensive ($100 a month). The tribe says a fiber network would give its members fast access to courses and medical care.

A group in western North Carolina is asking for $2.5 million to extend its wireless network. In Graham County, the library and community college have high speed access, but Tessler reports that budget cuts have restricted the hours those computers are available. The group (Mountain Area Information Network) is hooking its wireless networks into a new fiber network. Oh, and the group would use the stimulus money to Mount Mitchell State Park, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. (Observation deck on mountain’s top above.)

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