By Mark Haney
One of the many things the coronavirus pandemic has taught us is the value of broadband internet. Whether it’s for working remotely, finishing the school year, attending church service, or even ordering your favorite curbside take-out, nearly all of us have relied on the internet to continue living life as normal as possible.
Unfortunately, many times the broadband internet service we have, especially for those living in rural areas, has just not been adequate. In a world that now demands video meetings, virtual events and online education, far too many Americans don’t have the ability to connect or, even if they can, the connection isn’t strong or reliable enough to complete the task at hand. Add to that scenario the tens of thousands of students who had to finish their last school year from home, and the situation gets even more complicated.
I have often said that if we had gotten electricity to rural areas of Kentucky the way we have provided broadband service, we’d still be in the dark. At a time when connectivity is so important, it’s a shame so many have had to do without. I can’t tell you how passionate I am about this issue. It has long been a priority of this organization to see high-speed internet made available across the state and I hope it will continue to be a focus of ours until we have that service offered to the very last mile.
When challenges arise, Kentucky Farm Bureau goes to work to find solutions. As such, we are launching a new initiative to help alleviate at least some of the problems based around inadequate rural broadband.
This August, our organization launched a project to make free, outdoor Wi-Fi available to anyone who comes to the parking lots of KFB’s offices and agencies. And this service isn’t just for members, but is available for anyone in a community who needs the connectivity. Our ultimate goal is for every one of them to eventually be equipped with free, outdoor-accessible Wi-Fi, and we will have accomplished this right around the time the new school year begins.
Learn how the lack of rural internet options affects communities.
I realize this is not a complete fix to the problem, but it is a step in the right direction when it comes to serving the communities in which we live and work. It will at least be an option for those who had no options.
This initiative may seem like a drop in the pond as it relates to solving the overall issue, but if we can help one student finish a school project, or one small business owner complete a payroll schedule, or one grandparent video conference with a grandchild they haven’t seen in months, then this entire effort will be worth it.
This is a chance to make a difference in the communities in which we live and serve. At the end of the day, isn’t that what Farm Bureau is really all about?
Mark Haney is president of Kentucky Farm Bureau.