A lesson in communication

Before facing the fate of other schools in the county that sit empty while decaying and crumbling, the Bown-Corby School has a final lesson for Marion residents. Butler Community College is abandoning the historic school that once played a vital role in a vital community not because of utility costs of an older building but because Internet access here is too slow and too expensive — about $16,000 a year, according to Butler’s president.

It’s so bad that Butler’s trustees decided to close the Bown-Corby campus without seeking concessions from its landlords at city hall. Butler’s bosses need to learn that in small towns, people try to work out their differences before giving up on their neighbors. But the city fathers aren’t blameless. They need to learn that there is more to economic development than planting flowers and building Main Street roundabouts.

Real development requires investment, like Chanute is doing by bringing broadband Internet to virtually all public and private buildings. Fiber is an important part of any diet, and fiber-optic cabling is equally important to community development. Chanute’s system, if it lives up to its billing, will provide Internet speeds 100 times the national average at a cost of $40 a month.

It’s hardly a new idea. An editorial on this very page proposed such a plan a decade and a half ago. Google’s recent experiment in Kansas City proved it: Providing broadband bandwidth for less than half of what many businesses here pay for below-average connections would be a powerful incentive for tech businesses that can enhance a town. With a similar program, Marion could become a destination for high-tech entrepreneurs, and the necessary cables pass right by the city.

Anna Bown and Jenny Corby might not have envisioned that a failure to communicate would condemn the school bearing their names, but they likely would have taught that you don’t be neighborly by failing to talk things through, and you rarely get ahead by standing still.

— ADAM STEWART

 

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