Can anything good come out of a national crisis like COVID-19? On the whole, no. Nevertheless, lessons learned do arise for consideration.

During Idaho’s lockdown last year, it became painfully apparent in too many parts of rural Idaho that our state needs better broadband there. Not everyone in Idaho lives in the Treasure or Magic valleys — let alone Pocatello or Idaho Falls. In fact, out of the 199 cities in Idaho, 166 are considered rural. At least half of those (and their surrounding area) have insufficient or no broadband.

2020 dictated that we shop, work and educate from home. In order not to leave rural Idaho behind, a better broadband infrastructure must be built. That’s why a group of Idaho community leaders has joined together in an effort called Imagine Idaho. Their vision consists of serving all Idaho communities by promoting state policies favoring upgraded broadband in areas needing it and securing significant federal funding to deploy it in a pro-competitive, free-market way.

Idaho’s internet divide is real. Closing that divide in rural Idaho will advance Idaho’s overall quality of life, from telehealth to education, to efficient communication with fire and law enforcement services, not to mention an enhanced ability to work from home when necessary. All residents of the Gem State deserve this ability, not just urban residents. Consider how many young Idahoans could stay or come back to Idaho with better broadband in today’s rural work environment. Let your legislators know you support the efforts of Imagine Idaho.

Mayor Gordon Petrie

Emmett

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