William Browning: A key to rural economic growth – increased availability of broadband services

Many of Virginia’s rural communities still lack access to high-speed wireless Internet service, including right here in the Shenandoah Valley and parts of western and southwestern Virginia.

While our political leaders continue to discuss, debate, and attempt to reach a workable solution on how to create more quality jobs and jumpstart our economy, it is important to note that, for those of us who live in rural Virginia, increased broadband expansion and economic opportunity go hand in hand.

That is why I led a delegation of Virginians this fall to our nation’s Capital, where we joined other rural Americans for an event organized by representatives of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, National Grange, farmers, business owners, teachers, and others.  We met with our Congressional representatives to stress the importance of making the tools to create jobs and economic opportunities available to rural residents.

Our delegation was warmly received by several of our representatives and their staff members, including our United States Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, and Congressmen Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith, and Bobby Scott.  During these meetings, we impressed upon our Congressional representatives the need for better and faster broadband access in our communities.  We also ran into Northern Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and were able to share our message with him as well.  We were pleased that our representatives support our efforts and seek broadband expansion into rural areas, despite these tight budgetary times.

The Internet is now the primary mode for information and electronic commerce, yet almost one-third of rural households do not have broadband access, seriously limiting the economic potential for these communities.  Broadband technology plays a pivotal role in attracting businesses and keeping jobs, and it helps so many of our young people who want to stay and work in the area where they grew up.  In addition, opportunities to telecommute improve the lives of rural residents.

Today, broadband can even impact health care and educational opportunities.  Broadband connects rural students to educational choices anywhere in the country and can link patients to their records and their doctors miles away.

Our delegation emphasized that in order to expand broadband availability, wireless providers must invest in deployment of new communications infrastructure in underserved areas.  This is why we urged our representatives to work to adopt policies that encourage such investment of private capital to help move this growth along and meet the Obama Administration’s goal of extending high-speed wireless access to 98 percent of Americans.

I feel confident that our voices were heard in this effort.  I encourage all rural citizens to contact their representatives and lend their support to this important effort.  Our work is important and communities depend on this technology as we try to rebound economically.

William Browning resides in Staunton.


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