Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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22 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BRINGING MARGINALIZED BUSINESSES INTO THE NEW ECONOMY e success of a social broadband project involves developing and empowering small, broadband-connected businesses – and this requires extensive technical support. Technical support programs are likely already available locally, but they may not be visible to or coordinated with other programs. Catalpa Partners has worked to support small farmers and value-added food producers, growers of high-value organic crops, permaculturalists, horticulturalists, livestock breeders, beekeepers and other full- and part- time rural food producers. Armed with high-speed broadband, this group can form the basis for a new internet- based rural economy with a worldwide customer base and a huge, eight-to-one multiplier effect on the local economy. However, small farmers – who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are more than 60 years old on average – are unlikely to immediately adopt high- speed internet connectivity, be internet literate or even own computers. Because of prior lack of connectivity, this economically valuable food sector was already trying to play catch-up with the rest of the internet economy. Part of the challenge was to convert people from a "small farmer" mind-set to a "small business called a farm" mind-set. We found the Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) curriculum age-appropriate and of immense help in focusing rural entrepreneurs. Utilizing REAL's 35 years of expertise, methodology and materials are colleges, high schools and community development programs in 43 states and nine countries. Unlike electricity in the 1930s, the internet requires more skills than flicking a light switch. In many rural areas, high school students must fulfill a community service requirement for graduation. Who better to tutor the rural boomers who have limited internet literacy than high school millennials? Despite graphical user interfaces, the internet is profoundly text-bound. In my county, the local community college literacy program started at a fourth- grade reading level – too high for many of the functionally illiterate. Many older farmers and unemployed factory workers have learning disabilities that went untreated because diagnostic testing in schools was not mandated until 1987. Catalpa Partners sought out and trained volunteers to tutor older, unemployed textile workers and farmers in a discreet, one-on-one format, with exceptional, gratifying results. We found classrooms in schools, community colleges and EMT stations whose internet-equipped spaces were available to be used at night by adult students and their teenage tutors. Many libraries also have internet-accessible computers, but few are in classrooms where volunteer tutors, students and teachers can freely and discreetly converse. INTRODUCING APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY Taking advantage of a nationwide local food movement, we approached top chefs in heretofore remote cities and showed them how to use an internally created, transactional website (www., which displayed the fresh, high-quality, in- stock and available food inventory of dozens of small farming businesses. At the same time, we taught the owners of the small farm businesses – the The farm-to-market broadband platform brought Chef Jean-Pierre Marechal from Charlotte to Searcy Farm in Hendersonville, North Carolina, in search of high-quality produce.

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