Editorial: The cost of country living

City dwellers rarely now think about the speed of their internet connection.

The days of go-and-make-a-cup-of-tea-dial-up connections are long gone. For most people broadband offers what they need, at a cost of course.

Not so in the country, the country being defined as anywhere five minutes out of town.

Lovely views, no neighbours peering in your windows, clean air at night ... but pretty awful internet speed.

Expensive to lay cables, you see, for not many people. You can understand the arguments of providers like Chorus, as we've highlighted this week with the situation at Levels Valley. "Sure we can provide an upgraded service for a handful of clients, but it will cost $35,000."

The rural community has long been in this boat.

Roads, telephone and power lines ... all seen as essential today but all expensive initially to install.

Internet is the next "must have" in a modern society. And it is a must have.

Most of the business of farming is done outside, but the paperwork is no different to any other commercial operation in a city. So emails, running real-time interactive programmes, research ... it all requires fast broadband.

As Levels Valley resident Jason Winter said this week: "forget ultra-fast, just normal would do".

Meetings using Skype would be out of the question. As would gaming, movie downloads, and maybe even school homework.

There are options for rural users, but they are slow in coming. The Government's Rural Broadband Initiative will deliver faster speeds via copper, fibre and wireless networks, but that will take time. Wireless options are also available through small companies using linked transmitters, and satellite can provide for the truly remote, although not quite as fast and at a cost.

This is a big issue for rural dwellers. Jason Winter reckoned the value of his house was less because of his slow internet speed.

And there is no easy answer. Just as there wouldn't have been when the first roads were being built or the first power lines installed.

There's a new price to be paid for living in the country.

The Timaru Herald