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Giving Broadband the Green Light Part 1: Why Your Community’s Future Depends on the Internet

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Twenty-first-century life demands high-speed Internet. Period. The Internet drives the economy, connects us near and far, helps us stay healthy, fosters learning, and gives us a space to play. It’s vital to your community’s short- and long-term success. 

Yet 42 million Americans lack access to broadband Internet, according to BroadbandNow. Access isn’t the only barrier. Cost prevents too many people from full participation in contemporary life. Families making less than $75,000 a year especially struggle to afford internet. Without reliable internet access, families and residents cannot participate fully in contemporary society. They won’t have the same economic or social opportunities as those who are connected. They won’t have a chance to contribute to, create and collaborate towards a better future.  Communities like yours deserve better. 

An essential utility

For too long, too many considered Internet connectivity a nice-to-have, on par with cable TV. But the pandemic proved the Internet is a must-have for work, school, health, and social connection. Yes, it’s as essential as electricity and water. If you’re not thinking about the Internet as a utility, now’s the time to start. Here’s why.

An economic driver

What’s a sure-fire way to revitalize your downtown? Public WiFi, which can spur growth. You could attract white-collar workers, 67% of whom reported working remotely in 2021, to your community with high-speed broadband. Keep these same workers put by investing in fiber now. Remote work will persist with 22% of the workforce still officing at home by 2025. You can give these workers the flexibility and lifestyle they crave while boosting your economic activity through their buying power.

Position your community to entice the 17 million jobs created in 2021 in the U.S. by the commercial Internet—seven times faster growth than the overall U.S. economy. The Internet has democratized entrepreneurism. Give local businesses a head start with high-speed connectivity.

Health on demand

Telehealth usage has skyrocketed in recent years, giving people a safe and convenient way to access healthcare. With 82% of patients reporting that their virtual visit was as good as an in-person visit, telehealth is here to stay.

Electronic medical records have radically transformed the healthcare industry, benefiting patients and providers with improved treatment and diagnosis well as lower costs. Big data analytics can help providers make more informed, better decisions regarding patient treatments.

The Internet of Medical Things enables wearables and stand-alone devices to monitor a patient’s health constantly and from afar. Such devices can mean a patient can recover at home rather than in the hospital or can help a provider do more with less staff.

Community-wide broadband ensures your residents and the local healthcare providers that care for them have the resources they need to maintain their health whether at the doctor’s office or at home.

E-learning 

Virtual school used to be a niche experience. Now, it plays a crucial role with a nine-fold increase in the number of virtual school districts since 2019. At least 32% of students in public institutions have taken at least one distance learning course and that number is expected to rise. 

Online higher learning can increase education access to both undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certificate programs, giving working students and those with families the flexibility they need to complete a degree when and where it works best for them. For those who can’t afford to move out of state, online school helps level the playing field. 

Connection and entertainment

With over 57% of the world’s population active on social media, tweeting, ‘Gramming and Tik Tok dancing our way through bat mitzvahs, parades, and Taco Tuesdays have become a way of life. The rise of gaming demands more bandwidth with less lag. You may be surprised to know that the average gamer is 34 years old with a house and kids. Renowned organizational psychologist and Wharton School professor Adam Grant says Mario Kart saved him from languishing. How many people in your community rely on the Internet to fuel social connections and keep their motors running?

Access and affordability

Too many people in rural and tribal areas—like the town of Owyhee in northern Nevada—lack reliable high-speed Internet access. When an outage occurred at the Owyhee Combined School three days into the 2021-2022 school, it halted teaching and learning for most. The remote location makes getting the connectivity the community needs challenging. As of 2019, 50% of rural Americans did not have Internet access. These areas may not be seen as financially viable by commercial Internet service providers, who may instead cherry-pick the locations with the highest return on investment

Race also plays a role in the digital divide. Only 69% of black adults and 67% of Hispanic adults report owning a desktop or laptop computer. Many individuals must make do with mobile phones to fill out job applications, attend telehealth visits and even go to school. In 2021, 27% of low-income Americans relied on just their smartphones for Internet access.

What you can do: determine the need in your community

Now that you understand how vital broadband is to your community, you’re ready to do something about it. Start by figuring out who has been left behind or priced out and why.

Ask these questions about access:

  • Where is there no access?
  • Why is that the case?
  • How many people have no access?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they have in common?
  • Is bad data and/or mapping to blame?

Ask these questions about affordability:

  • Do people have access to high-speed Internet but cannot afford it?
  • How many people are priced out?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they have in common?

How’s your Internet service provider (ISP) relationship?

If you’re like many communities, you may have a single ISP in your area. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some healthy competition swoop in. If your community is frustrated or dissatisfied with the current ISP, how likely would they be to switch if a new game came to town? You might just find that you’ve got the numbers to make an investment in a new network possible.

Your next moves

We’ve made it super simple to get up to speed. First, check out our infographic <insert link to infographic> that gives you the lowdown on broadband deployment in nine, easy steps—you’ve already made it through step one in this post. Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming webinar (spring 2022) that’ll help your community get its share of the $65-billion-dollar infrastructure pie. 

Second, reach out to government officials to explain your community’s broadband needs. If your state has a broadband office, start there. You can also connect with local and congressional leaders in your region. 

It’s go time for universal broadband access

Don’t wait. Your people need your help right now. Grab the wheel and ramp-up before it’s too late. It’s going to take time, patience, and ingenuity to bridge the gap. At Biarri Networks, we’re standing by you and rooting for you the whole way, one network mile at a time. 

Keep up with us here or drop us a line.

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