by: Sydney Moran and Ivie Macy, Ozarks First
The digital world has only continued to grow, so officials are working on getting rural counties access to better internet connection.
“The pandemic really raised the intensity level of citizens saying ‘look, I need this service I need this to be viewed as a utility,’” said Bob Dixon, the presiding commissioner on the Board of the National Association of Counties (NACO).
According to NACO, high-speed internet is the top threat for small businesses in rural areas.
“If that service is not available, they can’t really compete,” said Dixon. “They can’t use the equipment.”
Poor internet also impacts education and health. In some cases, Dixon said people out in rural counties have driven to a McDonald’s to attend a telehealth visit.
Missouri has spent nearly $23 million of COVID relief money to help schools, healthcare providers and libraries with broadband. Now, the focus is getting access to the internet on a computer in a rural home.
The National Association of Counties will release its full report on rural broadband on July 12.