This week on NEXT:
We travel around New England to learn about who has trouble getting reliable internet access, and why that matters.
Plus, we discuss a new documentary about the fight for lobster along the U.S.-Canada border.
Finally, we’ll introduce you to the Snow Rangers of Mount Washington, and take you down a giant luge in New Hampshire. And we’ll listen in on Maine’s great chickadee debate.
Photo at the top of the page: A lobster in a crate. Photo by David Abel from Lobster War
Broadband Access Around New England
Nobody’s going to argue that we need clean drinking water, a way to deal with waste, electricity and some way to heat your home. Getting those necessities can still be a struggle, but they’re universally seen as building blocks for a functioning society. So, what about reliable, high-speed internet service?
Almost all businesses need it. It’s become increasingly important for medical care, and what about students who need it to do their homework? It drives our global and regional economy, but as the need for it grows, the lack of access to broadband internet is increasingly becoming a problem.
The Federal Communications Commission issued the “2018 Broadband Deployment Report” in February of 2018. In it, the commission detailed the percentage of urban and rural areas in each state with access to broadband, which they define as 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload speeds. The biggest broadband gap in New England is in the rural areas of northern states. In Maine, nearly all urban residents have access to broadband, compared with only 85.7 percent of rural residents. And in Vermont? More than 98 percent of urban areas have access, but that’s less than 80 percent in rural areas, which make up most of the state.
VPR’s John Dillon takes a look at the challenges – and the renewed efforts – to bring broadband to Vermont’s under-served areas, especially the Northeast Kingdom, the rural corner of the state, bordered by the Connecticut River and the Canadian border.
But as rural communities get broadband access, there are questions about who should provide it. Recently, the small town of Charlemont in the northwest corner of Massachusetts made an interesting choice when it came to building a broadband network for the town. The town does not have very good broadband access. And recently Comcast offered to build the town a network. But at a special town meeting in December of 2018, the town’s residents decided against it, instead opting to build their own broadband network. We called up Trevor Mackie, who’s on the town’s Broadband Committee, to learn more. You can read more about the town of Charlemont’s decision here.
While getting broadband access to rural areas is a big concern, that doesn’t always mean that urban areas have complete access. Many city residents feel left out of the conversation – with slow access, high cost and no competition from multiple carriers. These problems are felt most acutely in low income and minority communities. We invited in Elin Katz, Consumer Counsel for the State of Connecticut and Janice Flemming, CEO of Strategic Outreach Services and a community organizer in Hartford, to learn more about the urban digital divide.
New Documentary Shows a “Lobster War” on U.S.-Canada Border
There’s a section of the ocean along the border between the U.S. and Canada that’s considered a “gray zone.” It’s a stretch of over 200 square miles that the United States and Canada both have claimed. And in recent years, as seas warm and lobsters move north, the “gray zone” has become prime lobster fishing ground, sparking tension between American and Canadian lobstermen, both trying to capitalize on the catch.
A new documentary from David Abel and Andy Laub, Lobster War: The Fight Over the World’s Richest Fishing Grounds, highlights the increasing tension along this gray zone. We speak with David Abel about the documentary, and why this “gray zone” has become a place where we can see the effects of climate change coming to a head.
Lobster War is screening around New England. It’s screening on March 31 in Waterville, Maine. Find a screening near you here.
The Snow Rangers of Mount Washington
The late winter snowstorms and frequent high winds have prompted more avalanche warnings by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center in New Hampshire. The Center is staffed by “Snow Rangers” – the folks who offer warnings like, “Human-triggered avalanches are likely, and will be large enough to bury and kill a person on open slopes and gullies.”
The Snow Rangers of Mt. Washington don’t mess around and as NHPR’s Sean Hurley discovered, they don’t want you to either.
Giant Luge Brings Family Winter Fun in New Hampshire
Your town probably has a great hill for sledding, a place where you can pick up a bit of speed, and go for a ride on the snow. But imagine if the best sledding hill in town was an immaculately groomed, steep vertical drop down a winding luge run. Jon Kalish found that hill in Thornton, New Hampshire.
The Debate Over Maine’s State Bird
There was a bill in the Maine legislature – brought to the legislature by a group of earnest fourth graders – that would have clearly identified a specific species of chickadee as the state bird. The bill would have forced Maine lawmakers to consider whether the boreal chickadee or the black-capped chickadee might be the better choice for the state.
Sounds like a great debate, right? Well, not in Augusta. Lawmakers voted down the bill unanimously in committee, dealing it a potentially lethal blow. That’s too bad for the fourth graders, and too bad for the bird lovers Maine Public Radio’s Steve Mistler found, as they think it’s an issue worth deciding.
The sounds of the boreal and black-capped chickadee in this story came from recordists Mark Dennis and Doug Hitchcox, who submitted them to the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Do you know all of the state birds of New England? Take our quiz!
NEXT is produced at Connecticut Public Radio
Host: John Dankosky
Producer: Lily Tyson
Digital Producer: Carlos Mejia
Senior Director: Catie Talarski
Contributors to this episode: John Dillon, Sean Hurley, Jon Kalish, Steve Mistler, Chion Wolf
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England” by Goodnight Blue Moon, “Sound & Color” by Alabama Shakes, “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit
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