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Internet in Rural Florida is Not a Luxury

Heather Beaven

According to BroadBand Now one-third of Bradford, Dixie, Jefferson, Levy, Liberty and Washington counties are covered by broadband internet. In a state that ranks in the top five nationally for internet coverage, one million Floridians only have access to wired connected internet while 464,000 are without even wired access. In Florida, affordable internet is considered anything costing less than $60 per month.

Think, in a time of COVID-19, if the internet was considered an essential utility. Think about the possibilities for your children they could log on and learn from the safety of their own homes. Think about the economic possibilities for farmers and ranchers if they could quickly access new customers on-line. Think if doctors could easily conduct tele-health screenings and if first responders could communicate efficiently.

In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden helped usher in the National Broadband Plan Connect America Fund. The plan established six goals and a 2020 deadline. The plan, heavily focused on rural connectivity and service quality improvements, came with a $1.98 billion dollar taxpayer investment. Florida received taxpayer dollars ($8.9 million) to improve service to state buildings and another $55,902,591 for broadband infrastructure projects. In 2018, the federal government released “Phase II” funding ($1.49 billion) provide fixed broadband and voice services to over 700,000 locations in 45 states. In Florida, one provider was selected. Viasat received $503,284.14.

In 2018, at the American Farm Bureau Conference, President Trump promised to prioritize rural connectivity. He followed up with two executive orders. One encourages the Department of the Interior to allow private companies access to infrastructure like radio towers on government-owned land. The second requires the federal government to develop a plan to reduce the amount of paperwork needed to get permission to build internet in rural areas.

FILE- In this June 19, 2018, file photo a router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry, N.H. Not all that long ago, managing your home network's security didn't involve much more than installing an antivirus program on your PC. If only it were still so simple. Home networks are a major target for cybercriminals, who use innocuous smart gadgets as stepping stones to loot data from PCs and phones. Or they may co-opt the simpler devices  into much larger "botnets" that can be used to wreak havoc across the internet.

Rural Americans pay taxes. They feed America. They manufacture American products. Hell, rural America invented Main Street. For their children, their health, their livelihoods, their heritage and their future, they deserve all modern day utilities afforded any other Floridian. 

Heather Beaven is a proud Navy veteran married to a proud Army Solider living the agricoastal life in rural Florida where they own Huckleberry Farms.