By Mandi Donohue

Cheryl Goerger, my neighbor in Lost River, sent me a fascinating New York Times article called “How to Give Rural America Broadband? Look to the Early 1900s.” It was mind-blowing. In the 1940s, subsidiaries of local electric cooperatives transformed rural areas by bringing electricity to the locals. Today, these same companies are hanging fiber optic cable on the very same utility poles and are once again transforming the lives of rural America. Most telecom and cable companies don’t want to touch places like Lost River due to an extreme cost with very little return, but we might be determined to look elsewhere.  

I’m looking at you, Dave Gottula! So handsome. In 2015, the federal government declared that broadband was just as essential as electricity or the phone, and in 2014 the Federal Communications Commission began awarding grants to various new power cooperatives. This trend in co-op broadband uses “century-old electrification laws to get state funding and permission to provide broadband as a utility” like Roosevelt did when he established the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936, a cornerstone of the New Deal. Towns in various rural areas in New Mexico, Michigan and Massachusetts are now using broadband due to these electric cooperatives, and this shift has proven to bring economic vitality to these regions. 

When Ford brought the affordable Model T to farms it drastically changed their lives, let alone the way the farms operated. I’m hoping we’ve got some pioneering spirit in the valley to do the same for us here.

Would this change Cheryl’s life in the Methow? Absolutely. She is a full-time resident and web designer. Some days she can’t even get on the Internet despite the high costs she is paying. This is her living. Another example?  After watching two 30-minute Lightroom tutorials online for my photography, I have accidentally used our allotment of Internet for the month. For the third time this week, I have had to drive down valley and am currently sitting in my car at the library to send a simple email to Don Nelson. I sat in my car an hour and a half to upload photos for Methow Arts. Ahhhh! Save us, Dave Obi-Gottula-wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope!  

In other news, Riverside Grill in Winthrop is for sale. Warning: shameless plug ahead! Would any of our wealthy and generous readers like to loan my sister and I $400,000 to buy it? Despite our 50-plus years of combined experience in the food industry, working every job in big cities you could imagine from barista to general manager with proven sales records, after 10 years of looking for investors and writing business plans, being two of the most hardworking people you’ll ever meet, we can’t seem to get a loan. The concept “it takes money to make money” can be a heartbreaking one. (We’re remaining hopeful, though, because I’ve been told I can borrow against my house when I’m 85 — yippee)!

She is a vegetarian bartender who does delicious drinks and creates yummy veggie options. I do comfort food like killer fried chicken, and desserts is my middle name. Did I mention I took a cooking class in India? Did I mention I have a chef friend who lived in Italy and could create pasta dishes for us? Did I mention we would actually be open and know how to run a business? We would name it Red’s. The legendary local (the late Red McComb) was before my time, a fact that seems a travesty to me. But from what I hear, he was everything a local should be. It would be a place for community, a place where we could be of service, we would listen, we would adapt.

And by God, there would be cinnamon rolls. Maybe even two a day. A girl can dream …

PREVIOUSLY, IN MAZAMA