A shortage of broadband access in our rural area has long been an economic shortcoming. It’s a shame, too, because rural areas with world-class broadband access are poised for growth in this new “Covid-19 era” — now more than ever.
I watched an interview with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on “Face the Nation” this morning that was a stark reminder of the potential economic benefits of rural broadband. Here are some excerpts:
Schmidt: “One way to think about this is that this one month, two months period has brought forth 10 years of forward change. So all of a sudden, the Internet is no longer optional. It’s fundamental to doing business, to operate, to live our lives, all sorts of much higher expectations as a result. For example, we need much better broadband in the rural areas.”
“Face the Nation” host: “After 9/11 in Manhattan, you saw people establish homes outside the city. You saw businesses move and have backup facilities outside of major cities. Is there something that we know is in the works this time around?”
Schmidt: “You can be sure that something like that will happen. If you think of it as an employer, you have a bunch of employees, some of whom are dying to get back to the office, and some people who are afraid that if they go to the office, they will die. … One will go to the office. One will stay home. … It will change the pattern. We’ve had this situation where people move to super cities in these incredibly concentrated ways.
“That will change in the next few years. You don’t need to be in the super city in order to participate in the excitement of these super cities. The commission, by the way, is intending to work not just on the city, but also suburban and all the rural folks.
“You can’t participate in this new economy without access to the Internet.”
Like others, I know we are well situated to participate, thanks to factors such as our location along the I-80 corridor linking California with Nevada (something Tesla is trying to capitalize on with its operations in both states). We also offer an attractive lifestyle (AKA the “food, wine, art economy” — farm-to-table cuisine, award-winning wineries and craft breweries and a thriving arts and culture scene.)
To be sure we face multiple challenges when it comes to regional economic development.
But so far, our area has stumbled when it comes to securing more broadband access to better communicate with the “outside world.” Now — more than ever — is the time to execute.
I’m not holding my breath, but it’s OK to wish.