Push for increased broadband access intensifies

DENVER (KDVR) — The COVID-19 pandemic forced many Americans to work from home and students to learn online. Attorneys general from across the country argue the situation has underscored the need for improved broadband access.

“That’s one of the core lessons coming through loud and clear from this COVID-19 situation,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

On Thursday, Weiser was one of  38 attorneys general from across the country who sent a letter to top lawmakers in Washington on the issue. They are asking Congress to address the problem in two ways.

One way is by boosting funding to local and state governments to expand broadband access. The other way is to increase funding to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission Universal Service Fund.

That fund is used to support programs they say address the “digital divide,” a term used to describe the gap between Americans who have access to telecommunications and those who do not.

Jarred Masterson is the Technology Director for East Central BOCES, serving about 20 school districts in rural eastern Colorado.

“Seeing those students being unable to access their classes, it really does kind of hit you right there in the chest,” said Masterson.

If Masterson had to put a number on it, he said about two in 10 households have very limited or no internet at all. During the last two months, limited internet meant students couldn’t see their classmate on Zoom or ask their teacher questions in real-time.

“Being able to do two-way interaction video is something they can’t even do,” said Masterson.

He said internet providers have stepped up during the crises to expand coverage but that is temporary.

Weiser and his colleagues point out concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 and how the current broadband situation is not sustainable or equitable.