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In The News • May 24, 2023

Broadband access, skills major needs for Jefferson County

The problem with not having access to the internet is multifaceted. During the pandemic, when students had to study from home, it was an often-told story that described students, who did not have access to internet at home, sitting in the parking lots of restaurants using the businesses’ wi-fi signal to do their homework, said Solomon Graves, director of public policy at Heartland Forward, a nonprofit whose goal is to increase the productivity of the middle portions of the country.

Graves said a lack of connectivity means getting left behind.

“This is an economic development issue,” he said. “This is a quality of life issue.”

Without access to high-speed internet, Graves said, “people will be shut out of the economic development in the 21st century. That is not the world we should be living in.”

Heartland Forward is helping ARConnect reach its statewide goals. To that end, Heartland Forward is asking counties to complete a needs survey that addresses several areas such as the number of households at or below 150% of the poverty level, the number of people who are 60 years of age or older, the number of incarcerated people living in the county, the number of people living in rural areas and the number of people who are associated with racial minorities.

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