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Broadband is our lifeline in rural communities

Broadband-cost

Painfully passing time waiting for that download progress meter to get to 100% is something most of us can relate to. It is one of the most universally frustrating activities of modern life. How long it takes to get to 100% has a lot to do with where you live. 

For those of us who live in Arizona’s rural communities it is a struggle to get a fraction of the bandwidth. It is not just frustration, it is one of the most significant factors impacting quality of life in rural communities. The lack of broadband is one of the leading factors that stymie economic development and for most of us, it goes beyond that. 

Now more than ever, health care is in the spotlight. For those of us who call rural communities home, health care can sometimes mean longer waits and driving for hours to see specialists. This is why an effective tele-health system is not just a quality of life issue, for some of us it is a matter of life or death. 

Those who know me and the work our team does at Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation, know that we are committed to sustainable growth and securing economic development in our state’s rural communities. Our organization considers the quality of our health care system central to attracting new employers while maintaining the quality of life.   

There are so many reasons to support quality tele-health. 

Mignonne Hollis

Mignonne Hollis

The economic impacts alone make the case. Your support of rural broadband does not stop at health care delivery. It is a leading factor in the social and economic vitality of our rural economies. It attracts more investment in brick-and-mortar installations. Employers want to locate in communities that provide access to quality health care. The residual impacts when you factor in the indirect and induced economics are astounding. My good friend and ally in the economic development field, Skip Becker, will tell you this is the one of the first questions new employers want an answer to. “It’s a deal maker or a deal breaker,” said Skip, who runs the La Paz Economic Development Corporation – a nonprofit that serves La Paz County. Across the state in St. Johns, another good friend and colleague, Russ Yelton, is dealing with the same issue, adding, “When economies of scale are the only factor, rural communities are the last in line to get high speed internet. The government needs to make rural communities a priority.” 

Access to specialty care is critical. We can’t always have medical specialists on call in rural communities. This means tele-health or travel. For our sick and our aging population, there is no argument – tele-health is essential.

Now here is the tricky part: There is no rural tele-health without quality broadband. 

I was delighted that rural broadband was part of Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State Address. We need investment in broadband infrastructure – our lives and livelihoods depend on it. The difficult part of this situation is that we are usually the last in line to get it. I urge all of you to let your state and federal elected officials know that we need that investment in broadband to make it our communities now. 

For the elected officials reading this, I urge your support. This is a no-brainer – it’s good for the economy, it’s great for jobs, and it makes tele-health a reality. Won’t you join me?

Mignonne Hollis is the executive director of the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation.  

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