LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Broadband internet access a vital asset
All of the qualities with which our Finger Lakes region is blessed -- unmatched natural beauty and abundant resources -- can’t compensate for the lack of that one vital asset that’s needed to regenerate our economy and sustain it in the future: broadband access.
The shift to the internet for the activities that make up our daily lives was happening before the pandemic. But Covid-19 forced us to a near total dependency on the internet to work, to learn, and to stay healthy.
Historically, up to 30% of households in our area have lacked access to adequate, affordable broadband. These internet “deserts” include large swaths of rural farmland, as well as that isolated household at the end of the street.
Three new federal programs, coordinated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will help to improve citizens’ connectivity significantly.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides $7.2 billion in new funding through the FCC to allow public and private schools and libraries to purchase Internet access and devices for use by students, educators, and patrons who lack home Internet access, a device, or both.
Additionally, the Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. You can learn about eligibility and how to apply at https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.
Finally, the FCC is asking consumers to participate in the Measuring Broadband America Program, an initiative to gather crowdsourced data on cellular network performance across the United States. By checking your internet speed using the FCC’s Speed Test app, you’ll be letting the FCC know about the adequacy of service in your area. You can read more here: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/fcc-speed-test-app-tip-sheet.
Anne Kiefer, on behalf of the Yates County Democratic Committee