Debbie Conboy talks to her neighbors in Chesapeake, Virginia, about efforts to get broadband service for their community. See more below.

[imgcontainer] [img:broadband_chesapeake.jpg] [source]Photo by The’ N. Pham/The Virginian-Pilot[/source] Debbie Conboy talks to her neighbors in Chesapeake, Virginia, about efforts to get broadband service for their community. See more below. [/imgcontainer]

Rural Feature Film. A film that will have its debut Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival examines the lives of young people in northern Maine. “Beneath the Harvest Sky” is a coming-of-age story that focuses on “the challenges of life in rural America and the illegal drug trade between Maine and Canada,” the Portland Press Herald reports.

The feature film is directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, makers of the critically acclaimed documentary “The Way We Get By,” about troop greeters at Bangor International Airport.

The Press Herald reports:

The movie features familiar scenes in northern Maine, including border crossings, sprawling farms, and heavy machinery used to harvest potatoes.

During the harvest, teenagers spend long hours on dusty harvesting equipment watching potatoes moving by on conveyors and tossing out rocks that are inadvertently picked up. “Those rocks and potatoes were a good metaphor for the kids who were living there. Are you going to get separated out and shipped out, or not?” [filmmaker Gaudet] said.

The film is fiction but is based on edgy reality about drugs.

“As filmmakers and story tellers, we’re not working for the Maine Tourism Board. Our job is to tell real stories that address social issues and about amazing people, and hopefully brings up issues that can be talked bout. What makes great stories are people who overcome obstacles,” Pullapilly said.

Sebelius and Critical Access Hospitals. Kansas Health News points out an interesting fact in the debate over possible changes in designating critical access hospitals.

Kansas has 83 critical access hospitals, more than any other state in the Union. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, then Kansas governor, designated 31 of those hospitals as critical access. She did so from 2003 to 2006 under a provision that allowed governors to designate hospitals as “necessary providers” even when those hospitals didn’t meet the distance requirement of the regular critical access hospital designation.

“So, now that she’s secretary we just hope she remembers her commitment to rural health and ensuring access to care in those 31 (Kansas) counties,” said Brock Slabach, senior vice president for member services at the National Rural Health Association.

A report from the inspector general of Health and Human Services recommends reevaluation of the status of hundreds of critical access hospitals that don’t meet the original distance requirement of being 35 miles from another hospital (15 miles in areas with difficult terrain or bad roads).

A separate proposal in the Obama administration’s budget proposal recommends reevaluating critical access hospitals that are within 10 miles of another hospital.

Critical access hospitals receive extra compensation for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients in underserved rural areas. The program was created in the 1990s after a rash of rural hospital closures.

Broadband Skips Areas that Are Officially Metro, Too. It’s not just officially rural areas that have trouble getting access to broadband. Some residents of Chesapeake, Virginia, a city of nearly a quarter million, say broadband companies have left them in the “Dark Ages” of communication. A sparsely populated community along Land of Promise Road has no broadband connection. Cox Communications and Verizon say the neighborhood isn’t in their service area and it would be too expensive to run lines to the community. Cox says they would do the job if residents paid $83,000 for construction – plus regular hook-up fees, of course.

The article in the Virginian-Pilot has some story lines that will be familiar to anyone who deals with poor internet connections: a businessman who still sends invoices by mail, a home-schooling mom who can’t get educational materials online and a college student who says the lack of access is hurting her education.

The neighborhood suffered a week-long landline telephone outage earlier this year, which prompted residents to get organized about broadband access. So far, they’ve gotten no help from Internet service providers or city government.

Chesapeake is the second-largest city in land area in Virginia. It includes urban clusters and large swaths of sparsely populated areas, including farmland, forests and wetlands like a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp.

A Rural Retreat for Gays. The New York Times profiles a gay, “clothing optional” campground in the Missouri Ozarks. The 700-acre Cactus Canyon Campground near Ava, Missouri, thrives in a place that the Times clearly considers unusual and out of the way. The owners of the campground say they moved to Missouri from Wisconsin to start the campground after vacationing in the Ozarks. The article describes how initial local resistance to the business has turned to something resembling indifference. The New York Times story appeared just as the Daily Yonder published a report on research showing that rural gays and lesbians report better quality of life than their peers living in the nation’s largest metro areas.

Vilsack Turns to Social Media. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is turning to social media to help promote congressional action on a 2013 farm bill. USDA is looking for stories about the impact of the farm bill on ordinary Americans. The campaign is using the hashtag #MyFarmBill on social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube .

Many of the current USDA programs will expire September 30 if Congress doesn’t take action. The farm bill discussion and other domestic issues are likely to be delayed by the discussion over military action in Syria.

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