Episode 1 – School and leisure
Shawn Hamilton is a welder who works long, hot hours in the sun. He loves to relax when he gets home, but many days during the pandemic, that wasn’t an option, since his home doesn’t have access to consistent broadband internet. Whenever his kids need to do online schoolwork, he has to drive them 30 minutes into town to get a good internet connection. But while some in rural counties in North Florida are pushing for better internet service throughout remote areas of the state, others say they accept it as part of their lifestyle. Part 1 of this audio series hears from the voices of people dealing with the educational shortcomings of rural broadband connectivity, from students to teachers and to district leaders.
Episode 2 – Health
Several counties throughout North Florida have turned to speed tests to determine the areas of their region that most lack consistent internet. Cindy Bellot, the director of the Dixie County Library, says she lives in an area that so severely lacks broadband connection, she can’t even take the test. And she’s felt firsthand the impacts of a lack of technological resources in rural regions. Part 2 of this audio series dives into the many disadvantages rural populations face for healthcare due to widening technological gaps, including internet connectivity.
Episode 3 – Business
Oscar Figueroa owns a pizza shop in the Providence area of Union County. He says during work hours, his internet may go out more than five times per hour. Parker Hodgton, a manager at Thomas Hardware right across the street, says his business is holding back from installing an automated point-of-sale system because of internet concerns. Part 3 of this audio series looks at the struggles that businesses in rural areas deal with, and how it drastically impacts the prospects of future businesses coming to these areas.
Episode 4 – History and future
The Rural Electrification Act helped bring electricity to most rural homes and farms in the United States throughout the mid-1900s. In turn, it helped more remote parts of the country catch up with the urban populations. Experts looking at the issues of rural broadband connectivity today believe that something similar needs to happen to create widespread changes to the issue of rural internet availability. Part 4 of this audio series hears from experts who have followed this issue at state and federal level for decades, and their insight on what new federal dollars could mean toward tackling this issue.