High Speed Internet is the Newest Essential Utility
High-speed internet is the newest essential utility, akin to clean water, electricity, or a telephone. Without high-speed internet, our community is at an educational disadvantage for our children and we cannot hope to attract new workers or businesses to our area.
In June of 2016 a federal court defined high-speed internet service as a public utility. The court’s decision was a sweeping one but few seem to grasp the gravity of the situation or know how to implement this new utility into their communities. I imagine governmental entities wrestled with the issue of bringing electricity and telephones to the nation many years ago. We now face a similar dilemma today. Last week President Trump issued an executive order on streamlining and expediting requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America. This Presidential executive order is a huge step in the right direction as we seek to provide access to this “basic tool of modern economic activity.” His executive order states, “It shall therefore be the policy of the executive branch to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America…”
In Atlanta, Texas you may have noticed vehicles parked at our public library after hours. You may have observed young students using their laptops and other devices while sitting at picnic tables outside our library. If you’ve ventured inside our library during business hours you’ll see many people using the library computers or their own devices in the facility. The City of Atlanta provides wireless high-speed internet at our public library. It stays on all the time, because many local students and residents don’t have access to high-speed internet at home. They either cannot afford it or live outside the city in a rural area where it is not yet available. There is a viral YouTube video which I hesitate to mention because if you have no internet access you haven’t seen it. In short, the video portrays two groups of students as teams competing in a trivia contest at school. They are divided by a partition so they cannot see each other. Questions are asked by the teachers and the students answer them. One team has a set of encyclopedias. The other team has a laptop computer with the internet. Which team do you think won the competition? Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all called education “the civil rights issue of our time.” In Atlanta, Texas we are fortunate to have a school that boasts a 1:1 computer to student ratio. Through the generosity of technology grants and a school board who knows the importance of placing technology in the hands of our 21st century learners, each student has a computer. Those students with high-speed internet at home have a wonderful learning resource to use for projects, research, and to satisfy their curiosity on about just about any topic. Those students without access to the information superhighway have a fancy paperweight and are at a significant disadvantage. The school district makes provisions for those students, but they shouldn’t have to. The internet should be available to all of these students.
Atlanta, Texas is a great place to locate and grow your business. If you’re looking to avoid the hustle bustle and daily grind of city existence, rural Texas is a fantastic place to work remotely. I have several friends who work from home for companies based in cities far away from our town. They spend their money in our stores, send their kids to our schools, attend our churches, eat in our restaurants, and bring in thousands of dollars from outside the community. These remote workers enjoy the slower pace of “Small Town, USA.” In Atlanta, they also enjoy being in Texas; where we are high on liberty and low on taxes! However, they quickly learn their ability to work remotely relies on one utility that is not readily available outside the city limits.
You wouldn’t buy a home without access to clean water or electricity. Nor do I think it’s reasonable to assume a business or family would locate in an area without access to high-speed internet. If you remain unconvinced that high-speed internet will enhance your life, I suggest going without electricity for a week. I’m sure there were naysayers who thought candles were just fine also. In today’s world, we must adapt to the ever-changing technological reality. If you want to apply for a new job, most businesses will refer you to their web site job application. If you need to attend a seminar for continuing education to maintain a license in your profession, chances are, there’s a webinar for you. More and more we are using the internet in new innovative ways that impact all aspects of our lives. I am excited about the new emphasis from the White House on providing rural areas with this essential service and look forward to helping improve access in our little corner of Texas.