Connecting the Countryside
By Jeff Goldman, Thu Apr 26 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Government funds may be hard to count on, but there are still a number of companies out there working to bridge the digital divide.

Back in 1998, Cordell Brown was traveling in Africa as a Kenwood Systems executive, accompanying a local chieftain on a visit to a Texaco oil rig in a remote region of Nigeria. When a Texaco employee asked what company he was representing, Brown suggested they bring up Kenwood's web site.

And then magic happened. "He went to his computer and pulled it up in front of this African chieftain," Brown said. "And it just blew the chieftain away that they could do it."

Brown is now President and CEO of 1st Contact Technologies, a company that's working to provide that kind of revelatory experience to all kinds of people denied broadband access by their location.

One statistic that Brown loves to quote is the fact that today, 3.5 billion people have never even heard a dial tone, let alone surfed the Internet. In working to change that, companies like 1st Contact are attracted both by untapped markets and by the promise of government funding.

Fair enough

In November of 2000, the UKs fixed wireless auction yielded bids on only 16 of the 42 licenses, and all of those were in urban areas. Still, Patricia Hewitt, Minister for E-Commerce, was determined to see the glass as half full. As a result of this auction, sixty percent of the UKs population will have access to a new source of high-speed internet, she said.

But what about the other forty percent? In the same month, the UKs Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott presented a white paper entitled " Jeff Goldman is a freelance writer covering a wide range of topics for a number of online journals. He currently writes regular articles for's ISP-Planet. Brought up in Belgium, Jeff spent the last decade in New York, Chicago and London; he now lives in Los Angeles.