WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – In many ways, the coronavirus put a spotlight on inequality.
As more Americans under stay-at-home orders rely on the internet for work and services, rural communities are at a disadvantage.
The pandemic is forcing Americans to move online for work, school, even doctor visits, but many people don’t have the reliable internet service that is required.
“School busses are running in Kern County in my district, not to pick up students but to serve as mobile hotspots. That’s unacceptable,” Representative TJ Cox, D-California, said.
TJ Cox says students and families in his rural California district have been neglected on investment in broadband internet.
“Broadband today is last century’s electricity. It’s absolutely necessary,” Cox said.
House Democrats included $5.5 billion for broadband investment in the HEROES Act.
While it’s unlikely to pass the Senate, despite wide wide bipartisan support for building broadband infrastructure.
“It’s extremely important for telemedicine, tele-health and as well as education,” Representative Doug LaMalfa, R-California, said.
Republican Doug LaMalfa supports major broadband improvements for his rural Northern California district.
He says even new farming techniques rely on internet service.
“Production AG, that’s where our food comes from. It’s important for that to happen, so there’s a positive investment for urban people,” LaMalfa said.
“We have a big rural digital opportunity fund coming up,” Ajit Pai said.
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says his agency is putting $20-billion toward connecting millions of rural homes and businesses to high speed internet.
“The spectrum is there for wireless carriers to extend their reach,” Pai said.
Though Pai says the FCC’s efforts will be spread out over the next ten years.