The pandemic may lead to improvements in rural broadband inequities

The pandemic may lead to better internet access for some. USDA has distributed more than a billion dollars to rural communities over the past year. However, there is still much to be done.

It has been hard for many in the farming community to find positives about 2020. Washington Farm Bureau’s Bre Elsey says that the pandemic and the shutdown demonstrated the many broadband inequities in rural communities.

While it is difficult now, she is confident there will be improvement.

“Where we have better connectivity in the end, but it’s also a little daunting to think, ‘what’s it going to take in order to fix this in such a rapid fashion, and what are the dollars going to look like?’” Elssey said.

The Washington Farm Bureau and a variety of other organizations have pushed for better connectivity to run the latest farm equipment, allow rural communities to conduct international business, or even allow for remote testimony to Congress.

Elsey says that while the lack of infrastructure impacts those outside small communities, she is hopeful that meaningful progress will be made.

“Before, you had a lot of folks in rural Washington saying ‘we really need this,’ and overnight it became a school issue, as well, and a business issue,” she said. “I do find the silver lining as well, it’s just having a lot more partners at the table then there were previously, and I think that will benefit everybody.”

She adds that it is more important than ever for farmers to communicate with state lawmakers about reliable, high speed internet service before legislative sessions begin.

Bridging the rural broadband divide is now vital.

State of broadband in rural America.