As school board members, we are invested in preparing students to enter the world and believe their success is not only critical for them, but also for the health of our communities. We are lucky to have passionate and excellent educators here in Idaho, but they can’t do their jobs without reliable internet access.
The pandemic opened our eyes to one harsh reality – Idaho’s broadband infrastructure is woefully behind where it should be. The lack of infrastructure is especially glaring in our rural school districts, where many students don’t have reliable internet access at home – whether the reason is stable, reliable access or challenges with affordability. Immediately, school leaders pivoted to provide at-home hotspots, parking lot Wi-Fi, and more. Still today, school leaders are reporting that a vast majority of their students still struggle with connectivity at home and students rely on parking lot Wi-Fi, their public libraries, or even restaurants to simply continue or enhance their learning, apply for college or career apprenticeships, or more.
I challenge each reader to go without the internet for just one day in their personal or professional lives – including where data connection is turned off on your phones – and YouTube is inaccessible for tutorials on fixing that hose leak, no email, no online forms to register for opportunities, and no GPS Direction. If you’re thinking “I couldn’t do my job” then you must also realize your job and livelihood wouldn’t exist without connectivity. The world now expects connectivity in business, in education, and in our everyday lives. That is why we all need to work together to help our communities get the grant funding we need to bring our students better internet service.
I encourage all residents to take an internet speed test today. Every speed test at households and businesses with low speed or no connectivity means more funding for local communities. Your participation will ensure the success of our students and Idaho’s future.