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August 10, 2020

7/15/2020 8:36:00 AM
COVID-19 and Zoom

Dear Editor:
A Different "Take Away" on Covid 19 and Zoom
In her July 2nd letter (Zoom - My Covid 19 "Take Away" ...) Anne Bachner praises Zoom as a technology that helps mitigate the social isolation resulting from the Covid 19 crisis. "Try it: you'll like it!", she urges us. Good advice for people living in urban areas with broadband internet service. But what about the rest of us?
My take away on Zoom and Covid 19 is that among the many fault lines in our society the Covid 19 crises has exposed and exacerbated is the lack of broadband internet service for people like me living in rural areas. Our internet service is so poor that participation in Zoom is impossible. As a result, we are unable to work from home; have our children attend virtual classrooms from home; have virtual visits with family and friends; and participate in meetings, webinars and other virtual events. Thus Zoom has inadvertently widened the gap between the broadband haves and have-nots in our society - the haves who live in urban areas with good internet service and the have-nots who live in rural broadband deserts.
The Covid 19 crisis is making us aware that universal access to broadband is fast becoming as necessary to modern life as universal access to telephone and electric services. In the past, when telephone and electric services were new, rural folks were left out because it was not profitable for providers of those services to extend them to rural ares. It took government intervention to insure that rural folks were not left behind. Now history is repeating itself. Rural areas are not being adequately served by broadband providers because it is not profitable for them to do so. It seems like once again it will take government action to correct this situation.
To their credit the Iowa County Board is rising to the occasion. At their June 16 meeting County Administrator Larry Bierke reported on his efforts to secure $855,000 in matching funds for a Community Development Block Grant that would expand broadband access with the installation of a fiber optic line in rural Iowa County. The Board then passed resolutions to provide matching funds and to meet other requirements for a CDBG grant. While this action in itself may not insure universal broadband access, it is a huge step toward that goal.
In spite of all the media attention focused on State and Federal government politics, I was reminded that recently that local governments still have a tremendous influence on our daily lives and the values we care about. Your local government representatives are there to represent you. Make sure that they do. Let them know what you think about the issues that concern you. Don't hesitate to let them know when you disagree with them. Don't hesitate as well to let them know when you do agree with them and to thank them for representing your interests.

Allen Pincus

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