Letter: County supes support act to bring better internet to rural areas

Coconino County is the second-largest county in the continental U.S., so it’s no surprise that we treasure our rural way of life. It’s a part of our identity and it presents us with both challenges and opportunities, particularly when it comes to growing our economy. As county supervisors, we’re always looking for ways to build prosperity for Coconino families.

One way to grow the county’s economy is by expanding high-speed broadband internet. We’ve heard from many communities, businesses and residents who tell us one of their biggest needs is fast, reliable Internet access so that they can stay connected and compete in an increasingly digital economy.

Broadband connectivity is no longer a luxury for streaming internet content or keeping up with e-mail or the news. It has become a critical connection for thriving communities to create jobs, improve education and build healthy communities. Broadband access is a necessity to start and grow a small business and to take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education.

With all the noise and chaos coming from Washington, it’s refreshing to see elected officials putting party aside and acting on important issues such as access to broadband internet. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema just introduced a bipartisan bill with Wisconsin Republican Congressman Sean Duffy to help direct more private investment into building broadband infrastructure in rural areas. Sinema’s bill, the ACCESS Rural America Act, cuts the red tape holding back broadband providers so they can make investments towards expanding fast, reliable broadband access in underserved rural communities.

In Coconino County, we’re no strangers to the broadband gap which is the extremely slow progress to implement and deploy high-speed internet to rural areas. It is estimated that over 40 percent of the rural population in the county lives without access to broadband. Sinema’s bipartisan bill will help Coconino County address this issue by providing adequate funding.

As county supervisors, we’re particularly concerned with the safety and health of our communities. The reliable broadband Sinema bill promotes is critical to the safety of our sheriff deputies, other law enforcement official, public works employees, firefighters and others. Quick communication is the first line of defense when responding to emergencies and is essential to carrying out public services.

Hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics from Williams to Page rely on broadband to provide primary care, pharmacy services, behavioral health and a range of other treatment options. Access to high-speed internet helps bring high-quality, affordable care to rural areas and saves our county’s residents long, expensive drives to Phoenix to get care.

Accessibility and affordability is the key to bringing these services to our communities.

We strongly support expanding access to broadband internet in Coconino County and we believe the bipartisan ACCESS Rural America Act will help address the critical needs of our rural communities.

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