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Rural Communities Need Reliable Broadband

By Deb Smith, PCED

In a data-driven society, reliable broadband access is no longer a luxury, it is a lifeline. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 250K Idahoans have limited or no access to broadband. Reliable broadband infrastructure is an urgent priority for many rural communities. These communities experience distinct broadband challenges that require complex technology solutions, investment levels, and greater public-private collaboration. For years, the Economic Development Districts of Idaho (EDDI) have been hard at work creating and implementing development strategies to help prepare them to build broadband infrastructure. Regardless of this work, it will go nowhere if communities can’t receive federal grant money because a considerable amount of more work needs to be done.

Thanks to the Broadband Task Force formed by Governor Little and federal funds from the CARES Act, thousands of Idahoans will have access to high-speed Internet for the first time. However, this is a small fraction of what Idaho needs, and with the anticipation of more federal grant funds coming, we need to ensure we are ready with a comprehensive and progressive broadband plan to secure funding.

To help address these concerns, a group of Idaho community leaders gathered together in an effort called Imagine Idaho. These leaders are dedicated to promoting policies that help their ability to deploy broadband infrastructure in a pro-competitive way and providing support for capacity building to those communities in need. They are also working closely with the Governor, state legislature, federal delegation, and local leaders and organizations to bring broadband to underserved Idaho citizens. The members of Imagine Idaho are committed to helping provide the digital lifeline to improve the quality of life that all Idahoans deserve.

Deb Smith, PCED
Regional Economic Planner
Clearwater Economic Development Association