It’s going to take a long time, but Worcester County’s broadband effort appears to finally be happening. Many steps are being taken that cumulatively make it seem like within a few years the connectivity dark spots will be addressed.
It seems incomprehensible to many of us in today’s age for people to be without Internet connectivity in their homes. It’s seems equally implausible for cell phone usage to be unavailable in certain areas, like Newark, Ironshire and Public Landing, to name a few.
It’s the reality, however, for thousands of residents in Worcester County. Twenty years of conversations have been had on the issue, and it appears it took a pandemic to make broadband access a reality.
Many public officials have been working many years to try and get broadband issues front and center. Some folks, like former Commissioner Virgil Shockley, even made it a top priority while in office and worked with regional coalitions to speed up the effort. No matter the best intentions, any major efforts eventually stalled because of funding. There were laudable piecemeal projects advanced, but they helped a small number of citizens and businesses.
Today, all the commissioners appear to be on the same page and see the allocation of federal pandemic relief funding as an opportunity to fast track the broadband effort. It appears there will be a mix of federal dollars, loan money, state contributions and county funds in play to bolster broadband infrastructure. As Commissioner Ted Elder, who represents a large section of rural areas, said, “Whatever it takes I think we need to push this forward.”
Throughout society over the last two years, there have been numerous positives and negatives from the pandemic. A true consequence has been felt in education where many students have clearly fallen behind from missed school. When schools were not in person for much of 2020, online learning was impossible for many families due to the lack of connectivity. It left many students isolated and without the opportunity to learn. Similar situations played out during the last school year during times of remote learning.
There have also been health care consequences, as individuals were unable to take advantage of telemedicine at the height of the pandemic when in-person visits were not possible.
This inability to connect through the technology available to most of us and taken for granted by many leads to isolation and endless practical inconveniences. It’s looking like a positive consequence of the pandemic will be this influx of federal dollars to address this inequity once and for all.