Fed funding not a full solution
It is encouraging to hear news of a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund meant to help areas including in our region get broadband access.
But before we get too wide-eyed about that figure, take note of something U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said. There are 215,000 eligible points in underserved and unserved portions of his district alone, he noted.
That $20.4 billion is meant to be used in phases, across the country, over the next decade.
Still, even if it will not be a remotely quick fix — and as Johnson also alluded, technology changes so frequently these days that broadband may be a thing of the past in 10 years — it is an important step by the Federal Communications Commission to address the enormous gap in tech opportunities available in urban areas versus our own rural communities.
Broadband access can make the difference between an employer choosing to move to a community or to avoid it. It can help schools keep up with the latest educational techniques. It is a near-necessity for most students. It is essential to initiatives such as tele-health services offered in rural areas.
“Businesses will not come into a region if they can’t access the internet,” Johnson said, adding, “Health providers can’t offer tele-health without internet service.”
Johnson is also correct that improved internet access could be a draw to those who have left our region, but might consider moving back.
Let us hope FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is serious about wanting to get this job done as quickly and with the highest quality possible.