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Dennis Sun: Rural Broadband, Like Rural Electricity Was, Is Overdue In Rural Areas

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Dennis Sun
Publisher, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Living in rural areas does have its advantages and adds to quality of life, but one has to realize that there are some shortfalls. Some have no choices, as their businesses are located on a farm or ranch.

Lately, as we see more and more people moving to our part of the country from back east or California, a year later we hear how the romance of living out in God’s country seems diminished. Not receiving the mail daily or a newspaper on Sunday is hard to deal with and what to do with the garbage is a pain – no more of “out of sight, out of mind.”

As you visit with people who have moved out here for a year or so, they tell of their experiences dealing of “living in the wild.” From not having a snow plow or plowing out the road a couple times a day to erratic cell service, these are huge issues to them.

The people who have been here over a year all have a common complaint, everybody in the family wants to come out and visit in the summer, even family relatives they don’t know. Unless they put their foot down, their summers were spent cooking, washing bedding and entertaining relatives.

One issue binding most rural people is internet service – high speed internet service. In the last couple of years, there has been some movement to help with rural internet service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the Trump administration had huge grants to get internet service into rural areas. The Wyoming Business Council also has a broadband manager and established a program get broadband to rural areas.

Let’s face it, in the Intermountain West and Great Plains areas, we really have huge rural areas. If internet companies could make a profit supplying these areas with coverage, they would already be there. FedEx and United Parcel Service, I’m told, lose money servicing our area. That means we have to get creative to find the funds.

A couple years ago, during the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) planning, rural connectivity was the number one issue for the agricultural committee, and we also now realize the importance of connectivity through the pandemic. In fact, some others on the ENDOW Committee didn’t want anyone on the ag committee to bring the issue to light, as they thought it would hinder businesses wanting to move to Wyoming.

Some 75 years ago, ranchers and farmers had the same issues over electricity as we do currently with internet service, and we fixed that problem with Rural Electric Cooperatives, didn’t we?  It was developed by using low interest government loans.

We realize establishing good, affordable rural connectivity will attract others to move into rural areas, which may cost counties more to service rural areas and may bring on more subdivision in rural areas.

 I think it is possible to control the added costs and to protect farms and ranches so they are able to provide food and fiber for all of us while also having affordable broadband, we just have to make it a priority and that today is the biggest stumbling block.

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