High internet usage highlights the need for rural broadband solutions


The coronavirus is making it clear the nation depends on high-speed internet, but this is not a new realization for farmers and rural Americans. An uptick in internet usage could lead to a much-needed long-term broadband solution.

The Rural Broadband Association has called for for a two-part plan to alleviate the COVID-19 broadband crisis. Experts say that one way to do that is by passing a bill called the Keeping Critical Connections Act.

“This bipartisan, bicameral bill which has thirty Senators, inclining nine members of this committee, would create a temporary emergency fund to keep Americans connected during the pandemic,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the National Telecommunications Corporation Association. “In the long-term, Congress should adopt a forever connected perspective when it comes to promoting broadband....we believe the best approach is instead of creating new programs, instead leverage existing broadband programs that have been improved upon as time has gone on.”

Bloomfield wants to make sure federal agencies communicate and join resources to work together and avoid confusion. Since the pandemic began, internet usage has increased by almost half in the United States. Bloomfield states that this highlights the need for a short-term solution.

“We have definitely seen an increase in the utilization of our internet networks, up to about 40 percent. The interesting thing is, we focus so much on download speeds, but what we’re seeing is the upload speeds...that need for upload is increasing as well.”

She goes on to say that a longer-term solution is desperately needed as well and rural America needs one that is “future proof.” Bloomfield concludes with the Rural Opportunity Fund being on track, but the next truancy of funding will not be released until October.