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Isn’t It Obvious? It’s Time to Expand Broadband Internet

Isn’t It Obvious? It’s Time to Expand Broadband Internet

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In an op-ed in Slate magazine, former Florida governor Jeb Bush argues that it’s time to make a national investment to bring the internet to everyone in America. According to Governor Bush, nearly 21 million Americans had no fixed broadband service in 2019 because they live in rural areas where broadband providers say it’s too expensive to serve. Alternatively, they may not be able to afford it (I would suggest that affordability is an urban issue as well as a rural issue).

During the current pandemic, many Americans are relying on broadband to see their doctors, participate in work-related meetings, study with their teachers and professors, and stream the latest shows. Having a large part of the population unable to access or afford access is unacceptable in a nation that prides its standing as a global leader in technology.

Governor Bush cites the fact that the House of Representatives, controlled by a Democrat majority, included funding of $100 billion for internet infrastructure in one of its pandemic bills that has not been passed by the Senate. He argues that a bipartisan bill should be passed to fund the $100 billion, which, in his opinion, is just a start.

Because of a lack of broadband access, Governor Bush argues that we are creating a system of digital haves and have-nots in the classroom. Students unable to access the best capabilities of online courses are not keeping up with students whose parents have broadband. The results will be felt for years to come as rural and low-income students fall behind their peers with broadband access.

It’s not just K-12 education that falls behind in rural areas lacking broadband, but college access is limited as well. Servicemembers from rural areas who volunteered to serve their country are often challenged to find the time to drive many miles to attend campuses after their enlistment ends. Having broadband access would provide these veterans with many more opportunities to attend college online, subsequently reducing the stress, cost, and travel time for a traditional education.

Telehealth is forecasted to increase sevenfold, according to Governor Bush. Some of the most transformative tools in virtual health technology, such as wireless monitoring of heart health and blood sugar levels, will not be able to help those least able to access them.

More than half of community health centers did not have any telehealth usage in 2018. In a period when rural and small hospitals are increasingly at risk of closure, telehealth could meet a rising demand for clinical evaluations and patient monitoring if those patients had access to broadband. Those tools are closed off to patients with low-speed internet access.

Lastly, access to broadband for rural and low-income citizens would provide more opportunities for them in the working world, according to Governor Bush. Job interviews conducted through online chats would be accessible. Low-income residents in the cities would not have to go to coffee shops to participate in a video interview. People acquiring broadband access would have fewer limitations to jobs.

I think Governor Bush’s proposal has merit. Our nation has many infrastructure funding issues beyond the internet (such as bridges, roads, and water and sewer systems). Acknowledging the tech deficit in rural and low-income urban areas and doing something about it could bring opportunities more quickly to those areas.

I don’t know how costly the Elon Musk satellite internet communications system will be, but it is a system that he touts will expand access to rural communities. I have had high-speed internet access at home and at work. At the same time, my travels often take me to areas where even the cell phone reception is poor. There’s no excuse for that in a country like the U.S. where the borders are fixed and have been established for years.

I hope that Governor Bush’s proposal is carried further with bipartisan support in Congress. Further inaction will only increase the gap between those areas with broadband internet and those areas without it.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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