US Congressman Bill Johnson, from Ohio’s 6th District, serves the needs of many rural communities in the state and knows the struggles and pain.
“One of the biggest issues we’ve got is access to broadband,” Johnson said. “Businesses are being hurt because they can’t access the internet from home. Kids with distance learning can’t get to their schoolwork online.”
E-commerce, education, and tele-medicine are all things available online to help people through the pandemic. But as Johnson pointed out, “they are only available if people have access to the internet.”
Johnson serves on the communications and technology subcommittee in the House of Representatives. While COVID-19 did not cause the urban/rural divide in terms of internet access, it did expose it on a national level.
“There’s probably not a decision-maker anywhere that doesn’t understand that here in the 21st century, in a digital economy, having access to high-speed internet is as important as having electricity, plumbing, and the other basic amenities of life,” Johnson said.
Fixing these problems long term requires extensive broadband build-out, something Johnson believes current and future federal funding should include.
“The funding should go to carriers able to provide the highest level of service. If we only provide minimum capabilities, then that technology will be quickly outdated, especially when most of the world is moving toward 5G.” Johnson said.