It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, Erie County still has huge gaps in the availability of broadband internet access. North of Interstate 90, access is very good, but as soon as you begin to drive south into even slightly rural areas, coverage becomes spotty and sometimes disappears altogether. This is ridiculous.
There has been considerable talk of expanding broadband coverage in recent years, Erie County government produced a survey exposing the gaps, many people agree it’s needed, but there it sits. Talk, surveys and little else. There has been some action at the state level with funds granted to both Velocity Net and Armstrong Utilities for the purpose of adding to their service areas, but it is a slow process.
A 21st century alternative to a community college
The issue is of particular importance right now with the push for an Erie County Community College. A community college is a project that is not only an old and outdated method of delivering an education, it benefits a small portion of the county’s residents, while broadband everywhere benefits everyone. If Erie County becomes known as a connected county, a place where, no matter where you are located, you have access to the whole world, you have just made the entire county a more desirable place to live, work and operate a business. Think about that.
What are the benefits?
- Anyone living in a house even in the most rural areas of the county can access online learning opportunities from the best colleges and universities anywhere in the world.
- Any individual or organization can set up a classroom and start a training center or school from anywhere in the county
- If you want to start your own online business, you can. If you want to deal in physical products, as long as the postal service, UPS and FedEx can reach you, your online business can be global.
- Want to locate a company in Erie County? Your location can be connected to the entire world no matter where you are physically located because broadband internet makes it possible.
- If you have a health issue that requires continuous monitoring by your doctor, broadband connections can do that, too.
- Broadband everywhere can increase the value of rural property because it’s no longer isolated.
Starlink may be coming sometime down the road, but until that time we need to focus on the technology at hand and available now, besides, ground based connectivity will cost less and likely perform better.
Local legislators and those organizations looking to fund worthwhile projects should stop pushing for a community college and start focusing on connecting our entire county to the internet at high speed. This is not 1980, it’s 2020. If you were building cars, would you build a new Ford Pinto or a Tesla? Benefit a few or benefit everyone? It’s not a difficult choice. Erie County needs broadband everywhere right now. Let’s move into the 21st century.