There's much this pandemic has laid bare across the country — from how close a multitude of Americans live to the brink of financial disaster to how little all too many people care about the safety …
There's much this pandemic has laid bare across the country — from how close a multitude of Americans live to the brink of financial disaster to how little all too many people care about the safety and security of their neighbors.
Here in Sullivan County the pandemic has reminded us of much of the good in our community, from the myriad kindnesses being paid right and left to the blessing that comes of being able to live in a place with fresh air and plenty of space to escape your home.
What has become even more obvious, unfortunately, is just how devastatingly behind our lack of broadband internet access has left much of Sullivan County.
Let's be clear: Broadband isn't just “any” internet access. It's not being able to get a few bars on your cell phone that give you just enough ability to Google a query if you stand on one leg on a ladder on the corner of your property.
It's not an expensive and almost useless satellite access system that leaves you unable to load even the most basic websites.
It means Internet access speeds of at least 100 mega bites per second, a speed fast enough to stream Netflix, hop on a Zoom call, and surf the web. It means more than one person in the house being able to use the Internet at the same time, so that more than one person can accomplish the tasks necessary in 2020 — from filling out your US Census form to registering for unemployment to complete distance learning.
It means Internet access that could carry families through the very worst of this pandemic.
Instead, parents are parking outside our libraries for hours to piggyback off the WiFi just so their kids can attempt some schoolwork.
Teachers are wholly unable to communicate with their classes because they live in dead zones.
Workers everywhere are out of work entirely because local businesses have not and cannot keep up with the times, and remote work for out-of-county companies remains a luxury dictated as much by where you live as it is by your particular skill set.
There have been promises made by the governor, by our legislature and others to fix this, promises made for years to bring Sullivan County out of the dark ages.
But the issue has never been important enough to our politicians to charge forward, or at least not to do so with any kind of speed. No real movement has ever been made.
And why not?
Myriad studies have shown there are economic and educational impacts to communities that lack broadband access. There have been specific links made between lack of broadband and lower median incomes and between lack of broadband and high poverty rates.
Studies have also shown broadband access increases the education and health equity for a community, with students able to access from home what they can access at school to provide continuity of education and patients able to access telehealth, a method shown to improve health outcomes.
Our economic growth.
Our kids' ability to succeed.
Our community's health.
Shouldn't those be the issues first and foremost for our politicians?
If there's one thing this pandemic has laid bare, it's that promises to fix broadband aren't enough. Our economy, our kids ... our entire community is on the line here.
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