Coronavirus Highlights Need for Rural Broadband Access

Getting access to broadband internet remains a challenge for a number of people in rural areas.

A problem highlighted even more by the coronavirus pandemic.

The USDA announced Wednesday $22 million to help expand access in Barry and Allegan Counties.

Marion Superintendent Chris Arrington says just a third of families in his district have reliable access to high speed internet.

The school recently purchased mobile hotspots to place at locations throughout the district to help with distance learning.

“Internet is not a basic need until you go into a distance learning mode and then students who don’t have access and parents they really are disenfranchised. So something that was a luxury before COVID is now a necessity,” said Arrington.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow say the USDA’s announcement about broadband funding for two rural counties is a start, but it’s not enough

“I think the COVID-19 Pandemic has shown us that frankly this is not a luxury this a necessity now with distance learning, with telemedicine with e commerce with precision agriculture,” said Perdue.

“This really is infrastructure when we say infrastructure people talk about roads and bridges and so on but high speed internet is a critical part of our infrastructure moving forward,” said Stabenow.

Superintendent Arrington says increasing access is critical if schools are forced to continue with distance learning.

“As soon as you know that up to 2/3 of your kids are not going to be able to access that of course that’s a game changer. No teacher wants to put their students in that situation and essentially disenfranchise them. Our teachers I know wear that on their heart, but they really wish that access was there for everyone,” said Arrington.

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Categories: Coronavirus