Can you imagine trying to do business today without internet?
Twenty years ago, sure. But in today’s world, technology is essential to our days. For people living in rural areas, broadband connectivity isn’t always available.
U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-Centre) recently talked about broadband access in a webinar with Pennsylvania Realtors® explaining that one of his goals and visions is to restore and boost rural economies, and that includes strengthening broadband in rural areas.
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 800,000 people in Pennsylvania are without sufficient broadband access, Thompson said, but that number is most likely underestimated.
“Urban millennials are looking to flee to rural areas. It won’t just happen without connectivity,” he said. “We’ve learned from COVID-19 that the importance of connectivity is something we really need.”
Thompson pointed out that people rely on broadband for education, telemedicine, commerce and social networking, just to name a few.
“Access to broadband is essential to daily life. It’s not something for the future. We need to do this for today,” he said. “Many areas, especially rural, have little to no access, and some people are not able to access broadband due to economic issues.”
“I look forward to a day where it’s unimaginable to have a home or a business where you don’t have high speed broadband connectivity,” he added.
State Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) is the prime sponsor of HB 2438, which would allow rural electric cooperatives to use their existing infrastructure to deploy fiber lines for broadband service, according to Owlett’s office. “I live and breathe rural broadband every day,” said Owlett. “I’m very passionate about it.”
While Owlett acknowledges there are pockets of service in rural Pennsylvania, the goal is to reach all areas of Pennsylvania. “It’s a necessity,” he said. “It’s as important as electricity. COVID-19 has showed us even more how important this is.”
Owlett spoke of how challenging schooling was during the pandemic, with both children and parents working from home competing for broadband. Additionally, lack of broadband makes doing business difficult.
“We’re hearing about resurgence in rural communities, which is great,” he said. “But connectivity is what people ask for.”
He suggested Realtors® reach out to their state legislators to give specific examples of what you have experienced and how the lack of broadband impacts your community or the sale of a home.
NAR Technology Policy Representative Amy Bos stressed the importance of broadband for Realtors®.
“Transactions are being done electronically,” she said. “Realtors® are in a great position to advocate for broadband access in their areas because the need for broadband has never been greater.”
Bos said broadband usage is up 47% since the pandemic. “It’s no longer considered a luxury, but a necessity,” she said.
She added the cost is the biggest obstacle in access broadband in rural areas. “Companies want adequate returns for their investment,” she said.
NAR Online Advocacy Manager Melissa Horn said 20% of Americans live in rural areas, and the challenges facing broadband access in these areas is “not minor.” “There are challenges in state and local broadband policy,” she said. “The assessment process is critical.”
NAR has a resource page for broadband access in rural areas, which can be found here.