Not only has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic exposed our nation’s dire lack of medical equipment and protective gear, but it has also shone a light on the inadequacy of our rural broadband networks.
A recent CNN article, “Why rural Americans are having a hard time working from home,” by Harmeet Kaur, explores the many struggles that rural households face now that jobs, schools, and everything else has moved online and their outdated broadband connections can’t keep up.
“We Should Be Embarrassed”
CNN reports that while only 1.4 percent of urban Americans don’t have access to broadband speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, more than a quarter of rural households don’t have broadband available to them. And almost three quarters don’t have access to faster upload speeds of 25 Mbps.
These disparate stats are currently on display at parking lots across the country, as families without adequate home connectivity are forced to drive to open Wi-Fi hotspots and sit in their cars while completing assignments for school and work.
The article shared how one teacher in rural Virginia has turned her school’s parking lot into her new office:
Every Sunday since the coronavirus lockdown started, Stephanie Anstey drives 20 minutes from her home in Grottoes, Virginia, to sit in her school's near-empty parking lot and type away on her laptop. Anstey, a middle school history teacher, lives in a valley between two mountains, where the only available home internet option is a satellite connection. Her emails can take 30 seconds to load, only to quit mid-message. She can't even open files on Google Drive, let alone upload lesson modules or get on a Zoom call with colleagues.
“We are the country that created the internet,” Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative, said in the article. “We should be embarrassed that millions of people have to drive to a closed library or a fast food restaurant in order to do their jobs or do their homework.”
High Costs, Slow Speeds
The CNN article points to a number of reasons for the dearth of high-quality Internet access throughout rural America.
Deploying broadband infrastructure is expensive in urban and rural communities, but in sparsely...Read more