We are in the middle of trying to fight off, or at least slow down, the Coronavirus and in order to do so, many schools have closed and students are being told that they need to go “online” in order to continue their education. That is all well and good is many cases; however in the case of families who are poor or families who live in many rural areas that concept is not realistic. What is known as the digital divide exists and while the government has worked on reducing the number of people who do not have access to high-speed internet, there are still a significant number who do not. In fact, in some cases the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
According to the FCC the number of Americans (mostly rural) who do not have access to high-speed internet stood at approximately 21.3 million at the end of 2017, which is down from 26.1 million at the end of 2016, the number is still high. When you consider that many of the citizens in the rural areas are young school age children, then the significance of the problem is clear. If students cannot learn during this time of “self-isolation” then their future is endangered. One of the priorities of the FCC and the USDA must be to make certain that during the remainder of 2020 and 2021 that the total number of people without broadband capability, have that capability.
The digital divide must be filled in, farmers, ranchers, rural business, rural healthcare, and rural educational operations deserve nothing less. It is true that many people on the various coasts, think of rural America as “fly-over” country and do not give us much thought, but the reality is, without the hard work of today’s farmers and ranchers, there would be far less food on the the table and products in the stores. Our children deserve the best and deserve to have access to the same knowledge bases as those in urban and suburban communities.
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