One of the biggest lessons we have taken away from the pandemic is that the internet is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.
From telework to telemedicine, having reliable broadband connectivity is the difference between being connected and being in the dark. Now, as Congress debates a massive infrastructure package, it is more crucial than ever to ensure that rural America does not get left behind.
This issue hits home for all of us. Over half of the residents who live in the Second District of Oklahoma do not have access to broadband in their homes, and more than 45 percent of those living on Tribal land do not have access to high-speed internet. I fully understand the challenge this creates because I didn’t have internet at my own house until last year.
As a result, many Oklahomans find themselves significantly behind the digital curve. These disparities must be addressed to ensure that our local businesses, schools, and communities all have reliable internet access to stay competitive in the global economy.
In order to bridge the digital divide, we must identify opportunities to work together to turbocharge public and private investment, upgrade infrastructure, boost competition, and streamline the broadband deployment process for rural areas. These are ideas that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can get behind.
Investing in rural broadband means investing in our communities. We cannot afford to be left behind any longer.