Rural Florida cites need for better, cheaper broadband

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By Trimmel Gomes, Florida News Connection

The bipartite Law on investment in infrastructure and employment adopted by Congress contains $ 65 billion to give every American affordable access to high-speed Internet service.

The need is greatest in small, rural Florida towns where a reliable internet can be hard to come by, a situation that has arisen when the world has been pushed to do daily business online rather than in person.

Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the pandemic has exposed problems of lack of access that have existed for many years.

“Then COVID comes along and it kind of has multiplied by a thousand,” Fuentes said. “It was kind of a slap in the face to wake up; that’s a real, real problem, you know because obviously everyone was – the kids were schooling at home and meeting them at the home doctor. “

According to to research Affordability is Florida’s most pressing issue, as less than six in 10 Floridians have access to a low-cost Internet service plan. A to study by the World Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the United States has the second highest broadband cost in the developed world.

Fuentes was critical the Federal Communications Commission delay of several months Emergency broadband service program. It offered households in need $ 50 per month for broadband service and a one-time rebate of up to $ 100 for the purchase of a laptop or other computer, if they only contributed. $ 10 upon purchase. Fuentes believes he should have been deployed early in the pandemic.

“And we saw how bad it was once COVID happened, so I think everyone is a little bit on the same page when it comes to this particular issue,” Fuentes argued. “But then again, I just wish it was much sooner rather than later.”

Fuentes believes the current rollout of rural internet systems in hard-to-reach communities will be, in his words, “like day and night for everyone,” especially struggling students and teachers who have tried to connect. with them.

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