Broadband is one of the greatest equalizers today. It helps level the playing field, giving rural businesses the opportunity to compete on a global level. It allows all children, regardless of income or geography, a chance to access the same knowledge base. It provides access to medical interventions and support systems, connecting patients to providers across the street and across the world. It opens up doors for people to connect with family and friends across the country right from their kitchen tables.
We understand the impact and power the Internet provides. In Sherburne County, we know broadband is no longer a luxury or optional amenity for those tech-savvy folks who want to be cutting edge. It’s a necessity for success and viability in business, economics, healthcare, and public safety. Rural communities understand all too well that adequate, affordable broadband is crucial when it comes to attracting both businesses and residents. Robust broadband, like water, sewer, and electricity, should be considered essential infrastructure in our communities.
The Great Divide
We’ve met people in rural areas where only one side of the highway gets broadband—while the does not. Those folks across the street tell us of driving to the library in town where the sit in their cars in the parking lot to get connectivity. And it’s not just families with kids doing homework, we’ve heard stories of teachers going to the library to upload classes and doctors going to transfer and access files. Rural residents deserve better. When will our elected officials recognize the need for broadband as a core service—like water, sewer, electricity, sanitation—and provide the funding and support necessary to deliver adequate broadband to all residents of Minnesota?
Smart Phones — A Band-Aid Fix for a Larger Issue
Since we are not yet at a place where all residents have access to adequate broadband as a core service in their homes, many are trying to find ways to seek the information and support they need with alternative technologies, like smartphones.
Did you know?
- Eighty percent of U.S. adults had Internet access this year—through a smartphone or a home Internet connection— which is up from 78 percent two years ago.
- After years of home broadband growth, fewer adults in 2015 got Internet from providers like home phone or cable company. For those without home Internet, 33 percent say the biggest reason is the monthly cost is too high, while 10 percent say a computer is too expensive.
- This explains why more Americans are shunning costly home broadband and using their cellphones to get online. The number of people relying on cellphones alone for Internet rose to 13 percent this year from 8 percent in 2013.
- Of those only getting access through a smartphone, the increase is biggest among low-income Americans. But a smartphone isn’t as easy to use as a home computer when it comes to applying for jobs and is often limited by data caps.
*Data collected from Pew Research Center
A Collaborative Solution to a National Problem
While our wireless coverage for handheld devices (a.k.a. smartphones) may be improving, it is not a cost-effective or efficient long-term solution to broadband access. A recent analysis from the Council of Economic Advisers highlighted that nearly 75 million Americans don’t have a high-speed Internet connection at home. And, yes, nationwide, rural parts of the country still lag behind cities and more densely populated suburbs.
To bring better, faster broadband as a core service, we need to significantly increase competition and investment. But to bring robust, lower price broadband into more homes and businesses, we must demand a collaborative effort between Federal, local, state, and Tribal governments along with the private sector, community organizations and foundations. Contact your elected officials today and remind them that broadband IS a core service worth supporting.