Closing The Broadband Gap In Our Rural Communities

Closing the Broadband Gap in Our Rural Communities

nathan-davis_3By Nathan Davis, Director of Rural Development

This morning, as most mornings, I woke up and checked Facebook.  Shortly thereafter, I sent a couple emails, asked my Echo for today’s weather, played some music through Spotify, paid a bill online, and read the morning news on my phone.  For these tasks, as with many of the tasks I have in my daily life, I needed the internet.

The internet is everywhere. Beyond my daily routine, having access to the internet can mean having increased access to education and commerce.   Schools of every level now utilize the internet to deliver lectures, give assignments, and post grades. Businesses and consumers rely on the internet to carry out transactions online.  The results of a survey by the Washington Post in 2016 claimed that, for the first time ever, consumers bought more of their purchases on the web than in stores. The internet is now so ubiquitous that even some modern household items must have connection to the internet to properly function.

While the internet is growing in scope and size, not everyone has the access they need. According to Pew Research, 15% of Americans in 2016 did not have an internet connection.  While a certain portion of that percentage did not want an internet connection, the vast majority of those without lack a broadband connection because of high costs or because the infrastructure to provide internet is non-existent in their area.  Not contained within the 15% figure are individuals who have access to the internet, but the connection is too slow to meet modern needs.  While some individuals may have access through cable or satellite, the speeds offered are too slow to perform basic internet functions. The omnipresence of the internet means that economic developers must consider the importance of broadband connection when making development decisions.

Problems of internet accessibility, affordability, and speed exist in the rural areas of all five of our counties in Greater Peoria.  Filling these needs requires identifying areas where need exists, locating providers that can fill that need, and utilizing funding resources.  Over the past couple of months, I have been working with private broadband providers and public officials in Mason, Tazewell, and Woodford counties to identify the best means to expand access to uncovered and underserved areas.  Together we are developing strategies to fill broadband needs in rural areas.

If you are aware of other areas that need access to broadband, please don’t hesitate to contact Nathan Davis at ndavis@greaterpeoriaedc.org.

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