By Julie Tomascik
Loading. Loading. Loading. Oh, wait. Disconnected.
For many in rural Texas and in rural areas across the nation, it’s an all too familiar feeling when trying to stream content, check email or upload files.
It’s been said the internet is just a rumor in some parts of remote Texas.
Once considered a luxury, broadband is now essential. It’s vital to information, education, marketing, security and other important parts of daily life. The internet is about connecting with virtually everything.
But Federal Communications Commission data show that 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to broadband, compared to only 4 percent of urban Americans.
And that will be an issue as some students and teachers prepare to continue virtual education in the new school year.
It’s a struggle trying to learn in a virtual environment that requires students to download and upload files, participate in video chats, complete online modules and more when the internet connection is slow or non-existent.
Read as: Students forever buffering between assignments.
That may be a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, though. We’ve always known broadband connectivity was essential to modern life. Now, because of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever before.
But not just for online learning.
It’s important for tele-medicine and for those who have jobs off the farm but live in rural America.
It’s important for staying connected with friends and family during a time of social distancing. For placing an online grocery order. For marketing products. For access to government services.
And it’s important for farmers and ranchers.
Because broadband allows farmers to be more sustainable and efficient with the latest technology. It allows them to implement even more economical and environmentally-friendly practices, as well as access new markets and communicate with customers.
But access to broadband is key to all of those aspects.
Farm Bureau continues to work with Congress to include funding for rural broadband, because the need for broadband connectivity in rural areas is essential.
So, hopefully one day, high-speed, uninterrupted connections will really exist in the country. And that 39 percent won’t be left forever buffering.
Because whoever said patience is one of the keys to success must never have experienced a slow internet connection.