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A hope for broadband

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Internet access has become an essential part of everyday life for many…however in rural areas, accessibility is not always the case.
 
To assess ways of gaining grants to fund broadband connectivity, a discovery call meeting will be taking place via ZOOM on Friday. 
“There’s a broadband service provider that has been awarded several of these grants from different agencies and they’re willing to share with us what we need to do to position ourselves to even be able to apply and be awarded,” said Commissioner Mike Hill. 
Hill explained that during this discovery call aspects of how to apply, how to collect data and a presentation will be involved.
 
The reason this topic is so crucial goes in with the fact that many districts in the area have connectivity problems. In an age, now more than ever thanks to the pandemic, where the internet is literally everything, from working to schooling.
“We’re going to have to look at pretty much every option,” Hill said. “We’re behind, frankly. This should’ve been addressed years ago.”
Hill explained that discussions over broadband and connectivity have been attempted for years, but only recently have been seen as critical.
 
“It’s too bad that it had to come to this, but the key is just starting,” he said.
 
Hill said he was happy to report that many of his commissioner colleagues are now in support and he believes they will get somewhere in work and discussions on the plans this time. 
“I’ve got a really positive feeling,” he said. “It’s better late than never.”
Hill went on to elaborate on the importance of achieving better connectivity, paralleling it to that of the TVA providing electricity to rural areas decades ago.
Additionally, this would be a benefit to the area both economically and educationally as well.
 
Hill explained that the work needed to be done will need to be a group effort, primarily in data collection. He hopes to have surveys that people can take part in.
This survey would serve to inform on demographics, discussing current connectivity, pay rates, child ages, etc. From surveys and data collections, plans can be worked on for pockets of need, proposals, and cost of deployment. 
“It’s going to take everyone to pull this thing together and get us in a position to actually have a project,” he said.