A half-mile is all that keeps Michael Ervick from crossing the digital divide.
There’s a cable sticking out of the ground at the beginning of his Echo Lake driveway he says has been there for 20 years.
“You’ll find a cable for every house. It comes up the road to meet the infrastructure that hasn’t come in for 20 years,” said Ervick, an adjunct business professor for UW-Bothell.
He uses 3G internet from his cellular provider when he really needs it, but search times can sometimes exceed 30 minutes.
“If we paid the bill, what would it take?” Ervick asked Wave, the cable internet provider that would have to tunnel to reach his home. “And it was in the $15,000 plus range.”
Ervick is like 2 million other Americans who have limited or no access to high-speed internet.
This week Microsoft announced it will harness the power of unused television channels – called white spaces – to get rural America online.
“I would liken it to how we widened telephone service to rural areas decades ago, recognizing that it's really an essential utility for people to have,” Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Dist. 1, said.
Stanford hopes the Capitol Budget will pass soon, as there is a $5 million pilot project included to subsidize the cost of bringing high-speed internet to communities struggling to get access.
Stanford’s motivation is to increase business in rural areas, allow more people to work from home, and create educational opportunities for kids.
“I’ve heard stories of people who have had to drive their kids to local libraries to turn their homework assignments in online,” Stanford said.
Meantime, residents have found ways around the problem: “Today, I literally packed everyone up and we went to Starbucks and worked,” Ervick said, explaining he goes to coffee shops at least twice a week to use the internet.
He says he would move, but he wants to raise his kids in the area. Plus, he says his neighbor’s home hasn’t sold, because there is no internet.