By Stephen V. Smith
The truth tends to follow you around.
It’s been a busy month, with conferences and meetings and events, all focused on how broadband is changing lives in rural America. After covering the launch of a new joint electric-telco fiber project in Kentucky, I took off for a weekend out of town with Michele.
For months we’ve had tickets (thank you, Kim and David of City Farmhouse) to the Country Living Fair, hosted by the ever-popular lifestyle magazine. We were especially looking forward to the presentation by Erin and Ben Napier of the popular show Home Town on HGTV. We heard them speak a couple of years ago at the same event in Nashville, and met them last year on a trip to Laurel, Mississippi. (Yes, they are just as nice in person as they are on TV. Genuine folks.)
During the Q&A, someone in the crowd asked the Napiers why they thought so many people in their 20s and 30s were locating to smaller towns. Ben’s answer came quick. “The internet.”
The couple went on to explain how access to reliable broadband internet allows people to “live the American dream” wherever they choose — and that includes rural regions and small towns where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is greater.
That’s a story we’ve been telling for years, working with the wonderful people at telecommunications cooperatives across several states. Our Regional Telco Magazine project is filled with stories of people who are using broadband as a tool to make their lives better, improve their communities, and boost business, education, health and well being.
It’s exciting to see electric cooperatives joining the rural broadband effort, especially where they are partnering with their community-based telco counterparts. Michele and I launched WordSouth in 1996, and among our first clients was an electric cooperative and a telecommunications cooperative. The confluence of these industries, with its focus on connecting people, is a thrilling development to be part of.
There were hundreds of antique items at the Country Living Fair, and each one had its own story about who made it and the history it watched unfold. It was a perfect backdrop for the Napiers’ story of how broadband technology is helping a new generation raise families, build businesses and start new chapters in America’s rural regions and small towns.