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Time to spin high-speed Web that covers the entire county

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Jim and Paula Allen, owners of Appliance Zone LLC.
In case you missed it in the front section of this newspaper, is a Web-based, one-stop shop for purchasing parts for home appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves and the like. The Allens built their business from the ground up, and the company’s growth in the past few years has been staggering. The Allens admit to occasionally shaking their heads when they look at their sales numbers.
But here’s the kicker: Virtually 100 percent of their business is done via Internet via multiple high-speed lines (both cable and fiber-optic). The one and only phone line that goes into their building overlooking the No. 11 green at Old Capital Golf Club east of Corydon is a dedicated fax line.
Just think, if downtown Corydon didn’t have high-speed Internet access, Appliance Zone may likely have located elsewhere. For those political types who care about such things, their taxes would have been paid elsewhere. Sales rocketing from $1.6 million, when the business came to Corydon in 2007, to $7.7 million in 2009, wouldn’t have happened here.
One has to wonder how many other businesses aren’t giving Harrison County a chance because our technological infrastructure is still mainly stuck in the early 1990s. That doesn’t sound like it’s that long ago, but, in the world of computers, it’s almost prehistoric.
Recently, President Barack Obama said that within five years he wants to make it possible for businesses to put high-speed wireless services in reach of virtually every American.
Today, Obama said, more than 90 percent of homes in South Korea subscribe to high-speed broadband. Comparatively, only 65 percent of American households can say the same.
‘When it comes to high-speed Internet, the lights are still off in 1/3 of our households,’ Obama said.
At Northern Michigan University, a high-speed, next-generation wireless network was installed by six people in four days ‘ without raising tuition.
In Wagner, S.D., patients can receive high-quality, lifesaving medical care from a Sioux Falls specialist who can monitor their EKG and listen to their breathing ‘ from 100 miles away. In Ten Sleep, Wyo., a town of 300 people, a fiber-optic network allowed a company to employ several hundred teachers who teach English to students in Asia over the Internet, 24 hours a day.
As I opined to start the year, the South Harrison Community School Corp. had the foresight to introduce a riverboat-funded, 10-year, $2.34 million project to provide each student from the Class of 2014 and beyond a laptop and introduce wireless Internet capability at its schools, literally bringing the world to the students’ fingertips.
In Oregon, one county combined a few million federal stimulus dollars with its contribution of $3.3 million to run more than 180 miles worth of fiber-optic lines to build infrastructure that Internet providers could not afford in the three-year project. From there, it’s up to cable/Internet providers to finish the connection to individual subscribers.
Americans still in the slow lane of the information superhighway need to apply pressure to make sure our president’s goal is met, and our local leaders need to prepare now to take the next technological step if the federal government won’t.
We can’t afford not to.