Measured by President Bush's goal—to give every America access to broadband this year—it's not a success. But the effort to wire rural America has made impressive progress, the Economist reports. The US government has given more than $1 billion to internet providers in distant markets in an effort reminiscent of the New Deal's rural electrification project.
In just a few years, one company has turned Kentucky from a state with dismal internet connectivity to one with broadband access available to 98% of residents. But sloppy laws have made gains uneven and slowed success. The definition of “rural area” is so indistinct that one grantee wired a tony Houston suburb with program funds. And in some areas, federal support may be needed for decades.