It is time for Congress to
help expand broadband access in rural America
The more prolonged the COVID-19 crisis, the more all Americans have come to realize how important digital tools are to modern life. In this time of physical distancing and extended business closures, several routine activities have shifted to online platforms to minimize risk and comply with new statewide public health and safety precautions. Rural communities should be able to use social media to keep in touch with friends and loved ones – especially over video. Rural Americans need connectivity that can also reliably support distance learning tools for students of all ages, increased work from home demands, and the desire for digital entertainment and leisure activities.
Unlike workers in some industries, agricultural producers cannot sit on their products until their supply chains begin to normalize. Simply put, dairy spoils and fruits and vegetables rot whether they make it to market or not. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurial ranchers in some communities were already conducting livestock sales online. Unfortunately, the opportunity to conduct e-commerce and benefit from those sales during this time is not available to everyone. Closing the digital divide is not just about weathering the current crisis, it’s about investing in rural America so that these communities can emerge more resilient and prosperous.
The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, and now is not the time to shy away from bold and transformative action. Congress must prioritize investing in broadband because strengthening our national digital infrastructure will generate positive, second-order effects with respect to improved access to health, educational, and professional opportunities for the residents of today and future generations.
Despite widespread concern that rural Americans are getting left behind in digital economy, it is not too late. Congress must meet this momentum and deliver the kind of quality connectivity that all Americans deserve to improve their quality of life and reach their fullest potential.